One of ITV's live Saturday morning children's shows, including celebrity guests, features, pop performances, sketches, and Warner Bros. cartoons (hence the name) such as Looney Tunes, Taz-Mania, Batman: The Animated Series and Animaniacs.
What's Up Doc? had a comedy, chemistry and energy that were second to none. Its main presenters were Andy Crane (on Twitter here; interviewed in 2005 by Off The Telly here), Pat Sharp (on Twitter here) and Yvette Fielding (on Twitter here). It was on for three series from 1992-1995, 9:25-11:30am.
What's Up Doc? was the first ITV Saturday morning kids' show to beat the BBC for viewing figures, according to Pat Sharp in Garry Vaux's Legends of Kids TV.
Here is a photo of presenters and characters from Series 1 of the show – a scan of the postcard sent to me after I wrote to What's Up Doc?. Below it is the message printed on the back.
What's Up Doc? back on TV (in clip form)!
On Friday 3rd January 2003, a CITV showed a Birthday Bash, looking back on 20 years of Children's ITV. This included several clips from What's Up Doc? Read on for more details.
Earlier, on Saturday 28th October 2002 (and the repeat on 28th December 2002), the first clip to be shown on Denis Norden's outtake show More Kids From Alright On The Night was of What's Up Doc? The presenters got Lulu to give a shout out to a girl from Coventry who was ill, then realised that the card had been misread and she was not ill but 11!
What I liked most about What's Up Doc? was the huge array of bizarre puppets/ costumed characters who popped throughout each show. There were almost too many for the programme to handle. Some interacted with the presenters and guests and each other, some didn't. They filled the shows with surreal humour, parodies and risqué dialogue that put What's Up Doc? in a league of its own.
The Wolves (Bro & Bro)
The most frequently appearing characters were these two wolf brothers. They spent most sketches enticing children or guests then eating them, dragging them below the screen in a flurry of growling and clothes. At some point their voices changed. After a while, they got their own spin-off show on CITV. Their double act was recreated as the leprechauns on BBC’s Live And Kicking. Clip
A rotund, human-sized French frog (I didn't get it at the time), complete with beret and striped shirt. He used a wheelchair, presumably because something happened to his legs. (Again, I didn't get it at the time.) He was a chef, and occasionally presented a cooking segment. He also liked to swig from a wine bottle at every opportunity.
Played by Peter Cocks. Clip
A sort of pet furball with yellow eyes and a mouth, who often interacted with the presenters but had a rivalry with Yvette for most of Series 1. Perhaps most appealing to younger viewers, he sometimes held up signs with people's birthdays. On one occasion, Baljit went to Azerbaijan on a charity trip and met some children. On another, Baljit had twins.
A large Cockney earthworm who would appear out of plant pots and behind the presenters' sofa. Sometimes seen with his wife Mrs. Pasty, cousin Ron, "saucepans" (saucepan lids... kids) and other relatives. A worm family sketch in episode 33 of Series 1 was developed into a recurring segment (no pun intended) in Series 2...
An EastEnders parody, right from the opening sequence, where Pasty crawls down a tunnel that curves like the river Thames. First shown in Series 2 Episode 3 (18th September 1993) following a sketch at the end of Series 1. Undergrounders featured a marketplace and a pub. Other characters included Mrs. Pasty, their son Nick (who said "'ello, Ma, 'allo, Pa" like Nick Cotton), and Nan, who had a heart attack at the end of each episode ("Oooh me 'eart!"). In one episode, Nan was prescribed royal jelly by Doctor Arm, but overdosed and turned into a bee.
The above characters all had their own clips during the CITV Birthday Bash, in a section called Presenters' Assistants.
By far the funniest character in my opinion. Played by Stephen Taylor Woodrow (credited as Woody Taylor), he was an anorak with a cheese obsession. Every so often, he would recruit Cheese Rangers, and award them diploma scrolls, in a segment introduced by the following ditty (to the tune of In The Navy):
"It's the Scrollies, so it must be Saturday,
I've got the Scrollies, and they will not go away!"
Simon Perry was shown leaving What’s Up Doc? in the middle of Series 2. Many other characters followed and the show was never the same.
The Simon Perry character was later seen on a series of Twix adverts under the name Norm ("a break from the Norm").
Simon's friend. Played by Peter Cocks. Clip
A camp Hollywood hairdresser with a pumpkin for a head who first appeared in the Series 1 Halloween episode. Clip
A 3000-year-old woman who first appeared during Andy Crane's segment on Christopher Columbus. Puppeted by Steve Nallon (best known as Spitting Image's Margaret Thatcher), Cassie had left by the end of Series 1. Controlled and voiced by Steve Nallon. Clip
Vanessa Hill sums him up as 'a strange man made of bits of old wool who couldn't talk but sort of whistled at you.' Viewers were occasionally told that Woolly was "sad and spent", prompting a cry of "We love you, Woolly!" to perk him up. In one episode, he had a fight with...
A man made out of boxes, with one for a head and another for the body. He had a very limited vocabulary. Late in Series 1, we got to see Billy's cardboard house backstage, which he shared with a box family: Mrs. Billy, Little Billy & Little Billy, a grandma and a baby. Sometimes referred to as William E Box Esquire.
Anthony The Aspidistra
A large, green, talking pot plant who grew from a seed in episode 6 of Series 1 and spent most of his time on a table next to the presenters' armchair and sofa. His high-pitched, Home Counties accent changed to one resembling Prince Charles' (as a nod to reports that Charles talked to plants). He was fond of ginger beer. Vanessa Hill reveals that he 'overstepped the mark once by calling Yvette a "council house cow-bag"....he didn't last.' Clip (just at the end)
This character, a velvet-clad man with a mask whom the presenters avoided naming on air, was introduced in episode 1 when he came over to a table laden with Batman prizes and marvelled at the "jew-ells" before revealing his "waistcoat of roast beef" many years before Lady Gaga dressed in meat (clip).
He used to run amok squirting children with "ghee" from a small plastic tortoise, "Naughty Torty". Mr. Spanky was gone by Christmas 1992. In a later episode, Simon and Andy found Torty hibernating in Pat Sharp's head. Following a sneeze, the character appeared as a giant tortoise who squirted audience members and guests with white foam from a doll. Thank you very much to Michelle Davies for most of these details.
Thanks very much to Neil, who goes one stage further with this detailed description: ‘Dressed like a Dandy - 3 cornered hat, white wig, long 3/4 length velvet riding coat, riding breeches, white knee length socks and big buckled shoes. His face was covered in what looked like a thin yellow sheet of latex, the mouth and eye holes looked partly cut & partly torn. The mouth hole had red lipstick to give the impression of ‘lips’ but it was a bit ‘smeary’ … If that wasn’t scary enough - I seem to remember that on at least one week’s show, he had a waistcoat made of ‘Roast Beef’ … only it looked more like a selection of Italian Hams . I remember Andy Crane being shown the garment in question. Don’t really remember him speaking much, but I do remember the screeching of ‘Naughty Torty’ and flouncing/prancing about a bit, when he wasn’t squirting over people or wrecking things on the planet thru the telescope. Thought he went downhill when he actually ‘became’ the Tortoise.’
Life With The Amoebas
A soap, reportedly made by Frank Sidebottom (who appeared himself in several episodes of What's Up Doc?), that ran throughout Series 1. It began with a theme song:
"Life with the amoebas
No one can see us
Because we're small
(Yes, we're very very small)
Mum, Dad and the Baby
We're the one-cell family
On your television set"
A narrator introduced each episode. We see a photo, usually of a living room. We can't see the amoebas; they are indicated by arrows, which jog up and down when they talk (in squeaky Northern accents). In most episodes, one of the amoebas wants to do something (e.g. join the circus or blow out birthday candles), but one of the others points out that it is impossible, because they are amoebas and have no arms/legs/mouths etc. Then all 3 amoebas go "wa, wa, waaa" in disappointment, before the narrator tells us to tune in next week. A remark by Andy in one episode suggested that some Life With The Amoebas segments may never have been shown, due to other segments overrunning.
Part of an episode of Life With The Amoebas was shown during the CITV Birthday Bash, within the What’s Up Doc? clip in the segment on Saturday morning shows.
Interactive touch-tone games
Seen in Series 2 and 3, a contest where viewers were able to phone in, and use their phones touch-tones to play a specially tailored video game scenario as it was displayed on TV. The first one available was...
Hugo The (TV) Troll
Hugo had to perform typical heroics, like locating treasure or rescuing his girlfriend (Hugolina) or defeating a baddie. Hugo rode a cart along railway tracks, and had to switch between tracks (left-hand, middle or right-hand) to avoid obstacles and reach the end. This was later changed to involve Hugo flying a plane. As well as affecting direction, the caller’s touch-tone buttons allowed for Pause, or Map Display.
This game had more video and less direct control over the character. Joe Razz was a time-traveller stuck in the Jurassic (hence the name, perhaps), on the run from a Tyrannosaurus Rex. At one point, he had to jump over a log that appeared ahead. Later, the setting became Ancient Egypt: Joe Razz had to avoid falling boulders and a statue-monster with laser-beam eyes.
Guess The Girth
This was a short-lived feature about Yvette, introduced in the weeks preceding her maternity leave.
A competition which ran for a few shows in Series 2 or 3. Viewers could apply for a free Loopy Lottery ticket with numbers on (sorry to state the obvious). There was a draw during each show.
Crack The Safe
A short-lived phone-in competition in Series 2 or 3. In the studio was a locked safe containing a phone and prizes. During the show three questions were posed with single digit answers (e.g. how many dwarfs did Snow White know?). The answers formed the last three digits of the phone line (the rest of the number was given); the first viewer to ring that number unlocked the safe.
Pat Sharp's Charisma
During several episodes of Series 1, viewers were able to write in with a request to be sent a sample of Pat Sharp's Charisma. This was dispensed in perfume bottles and pill bottles, which, when opened, triggered the sound of Pat saying "Seeensational!" in the studio.
Greg & Max
Two cooks, Greg Robinson and Max Schofield, who were frequently guests on the show, and who entered into the studio spirit (clip). Other recurring guests included the late Terry Nutkins (and a range of animals) and Frank Sidebottom, comedy alter ego of the late Chris Sievey.
The Magic Telescope
A large coin-operated telescope seen in the early episode of Series 1. When someone put 10p in it, we got to see a view of an alien landscape, accompanied by ghostly music. The aliens on the planet were gloved hands reaching in from offscreen and demonstrating how they did things differently from humans (usually by adding explosions to everyday pursuits). As a running joke, Yvette never got a go on the telescope.
Spam and blooms
Thanks to Warren for remembering that whenever someone mentioned or offered "spam and blooms", the studio went wild as everybody scrambled for this sought-after items. Clip This derived from an episode in which Colin had tried to woo Yvette with a can of spam and a bunch of flowers.
When my letter was read out by Andy Crane, I got sent a What’s Up Doc? pin badge, and a What’s Up Doc? ballpoint pen.
Thanks to the sadly defunct Satkids.co.uk for some of the information on this page.
There is an array of What's Up Doc? clips available on YouTube. If you find any that aren't listed here, or notice that any clips on the list have been removed, please let me know and I will update the list.
Special mention must go to this fantastic selection of clips, courtesy of theukarchivist, many of which have links below, and to the full Series 1 episodes uploaded by TVSproductions82.
With continuing thanks to TVSproductions82 for uploading studio footage to YouTube of all three series, here is a partial episode guide. I'm intending to cover up the halfway point of Series 2 when Simon Perry left. I apologise that this may not be completed for a while but I hope it's still useful in its unfinished state.
Series 1 Episode 1
Broadcast: Saturday 5th September 1992
Music guests: Bananarama (performing Moving On and I Want You Back)
Features: Yvette reported from Combwell Priory in Kent
Characters: Wolves, Simon Perry, Gaston (bread), Baljit, Mr. Spanky, Pasty
Life With The Amoebas: Hamster Trouble
Videos: full episode (minus cartoons), Mr. Spanky's debut
Broadcast: 12th September 1992
Music guests: East 17 and their dog Levy (House of Love, Gold)
Other guests: Reduced Shakespeare Company, Gareth Jones (promoting the new series of How 2), Jason Priestley, the Tonbridge Bobcats (baseball)
Characters: Wolves, Socky Sock Sock (hosting the Fruit & Vegetable Free Theatre), Baljit, Gaston (French dressing), Simon Perry, Mr. Spanky & Naughty Torty (Andy Crane got 'gheed'), Pasty
Life With The Amoebas: High Definition Television
Videos: full episode
Broadcast: 19th September 1992
Music guests: Rhythm N' Bass (Roses; If You Want It, You Got It)
Guests: Neil Buchanan (caricatures), Paul Morocco and The EC Big Band (flamenco guitar juggling; also performed Life With The Amoebas theme), Greg & Max (egg decorating)
Characters: Wolves, Baljit, Cockney floor sweepers, Pasty, Simon, Mr. Spanky (dancing), Detective Sergeants Comfortable & Barrett (interviewed audience members and guests), Magic Telescope (blowing up an egg)
Life With the Amoebas: Mother's New Dress
Videos: full episode
Broadcast: 26th September 1992
Music guest: Bob Geldof (My Hippy Angel, Room 19 (Sha La La La Lee). Bob was back from Denmark and told Pat that TV appearances are "pretty crap everywhere really". He called Pat "the human haircut". He and the band said hello to their children).
Frank Sidebottom: wore a yellow safari suit; built a "Premier League Football Simulator" with cardboard drawings of footballers; performed Wild Thing, with Andy on cardboard banjo & Little Frank (whom Frank spun on the floor and kicked away).
Other guests: Crowded House (music video), Simon Entwistle (sound impressions), Nick Hanna (ocean expert and author)
Characters: Wolves (trying to remove old people from the studio), Gaston (wooing Yvette), Baljit (including Baljit's Big Bang: an explosion dedicated by a viewer), Simon (made "pressed cheese" by closing it in a book), Pasty (performed a swing version of the Amoebas theme with the presenters), Mr. Spanky (helping Simon play Cheese Bingo; having his wig stolen by Baljit) & Naughty Torty, Socky Sock Sock, Magic Telescope (blowing up potted plant)
Life With The Amoebas: Football Match
Trivia: Andy plugged The Big Breakfast (which was to start the following week, with his Motormouth colleague Gaby Roslin co-hosting)
Videos: full episode
Broadcast: 3rd October 1992
Music guests: The Farm (Don't You Want Me; Rising Sun)
Other guests: Sue Hutton and her ferret Frisk (she'd written in asking for them to be on), Kevin Keegan, ballroom dancers, Haggis McLeod (juggler)
Features: Andy gave a history of troll dolls
Characters: Billy Box, Wolves (Big Bro has toothache), Baljit (stealing shoes etc to build a house), Simon (World of Cheese: cheese whittling), Socky Sock Sock, Pasty, Mr. Spanky (showing Naughty Torty the Magic Telescope)
Life With The Amoebas: Tea-Time
Trivia: Pat's first "Sensational!" on the show ("It's a special talent" - Andy)
Videos: full episode; Pasty with Andy; The Farm's Don't You Want Me, 1992; End of episode with The Farm's Rising Sun, 1992
Broadcast: 10th October 1992
Music guests: Take That (A Million Love Songs, Life With The Amoebas theme, I Found Heaven)
Other guests: Dr. Bruce Fogle (author of dog book, father of Ben Fogle), Paul Usher and Brian Regan (Barry and Terry in Brookside - competition)
Features: 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage; Beauty and the Beast
Characters: Wolves (Big Bro loses hope; Video Box Complaint), Gaston, Simon, Anthony (first appearance), Baljit (Pat fits a burglar alarm to his house), Cassie (found among Columbus props), police constable (handcuffs Yvette after she sets off Baljit's alarm), Mr. Spanky
Life With The Amoebas: The Birthday Present
Videos: full episode; end of episode with Take That's I Found Heaven; Take That segments
Broadcast: 17th October 1992
Music guests: TLC
Other guests: Hank Marvin (guitar masterclass), Greg & Max, Gladiators (Wolf, Scorpio, Shadow)
Characters: Wolves, Simon Perry, Cassie (claimed her 28th husband (out of 30) was Robert Peel), Baljit, Socky Sock Sock
Other: Competition to design a cake for Tweetie Pie's 50th birthday; letter from Topping Car Hire - their phone number was similar to the What's Up Doc? number and were getting too many wrong numbers
Videos: full episode
Broadcast: 24th October 1992
Guests: Lindy Layton, the Chinese State Circus, Mike Read
Videos: full episode
Broadcast: 31st October 1992
Music guests: Go West (Faithful, The King of Wishful Thinking)
Other guests: trial bike riding (ACU Youth Action), David Manning (hibernation), Chloe Sayer, Roberto Ruiz, Tiburcio Soteno (Mexico's Day of the Dead)
Features: Yvette at cartoon character parade in with Barbara Windsor in London's Regent Street
Characters: Simon, Sam Sam, Wolves, Cassie (Halloween makeup), Socky Sock Sock (who's torched the Fruit & Vegetable Free Theatre for the insurance money), Baljit (drugged by Yvette, who then sends the Gillingham Marching Band past him when he calms down), Simon (the history of the festival of Hallocheese), Pasty, Magic Telescope (dynamiting a teddy bear)...
Life With The Amoebas: Star Gazing
Trivia: when Go West perform at the end, they're standing around Simon's miniature Cheesehenge. An homage (or fromage) to Spinal Tap?
Videos: full episode
Broadcast: 7th November 1992
Broadcast: 14th November 1992
Broadcast: 21st November 1992
Broadcast: 28th November 1992
Broadcast: 5th December 1992
Broadcast: 12th December 1992
Broadcast: 19th December 1992
Trivia: The episode had special theme music that blended the usual theme with sections of Christmas hymns
Broadcast: 2nd January 1993
Features: Promotion for the new series of Fun House
Broadcast: 9th January 1993
Broadcast: 16th January 1993
Broadcast: 23rd January 1993
Broadcast: 30th January 1993
Music guest: Cathy Dennis (Falling, Irresistible)
Other guests: David Constable (candlemaking and wax modelling ahead of Candlemas), Sesame Street Live dancers, David Manning (with two baby leopards)
Characters: Diego (John Eccleston as a Mexican host), Simon (staging a battle between the Cheese Rangers and the Box People), Wolves (suffering from loneliness), Pasty and the worms, Baljit (drags Andy around the studio through a Crufts-style obstacle course), Gaston (making bubble and squeak), Billy Box, Colin (tried to chat up Cathy Dennis), Spam n Blooms
Life With The Amoebas: Monopoly
Trivia: Simon reveals that he "came from Argentina with my father, Professor Joseph ... Perry". After reading out a letter from Wayne, the presenters headbang to Bohemian Rhapsody. Pat dances to Fat Bottomed Girls.
Videos: full episode
Series 2 Episode 1
Broadcast: 4th September 1993
Music guests: Carter USM
Other guests: Fred Dinenage (the presenters refuse to plug the new series of How 2 for him; he dresses as a cheese ranger), David Charvet & Nicole Eggert from Baywatch, Adrian 'Nosey' Wigley (played keyboard with his elbow, nose and tongue)
Characters: Baljit, Simon (takes Andy around a 'freshers' fair' with clubs run by the characters and presenters), Colin, the Wolves, Gaston (feature on sandwiches), Billy Box (sings a duet of Loving You with Yvette until water is thrown over her. "Let that be a lesson to you, children. There's nothing worse than a soggy box." Andy), Woolly (has "forgotten to be sad and spent" and sticks his head up the back of cameraman Keith's woolly jumper), Frank Sidebottom (green jacket, pink tie; performs Lean On Me, I Won't Fall Over with Pat, Colin and Andy; caught in a bathtub during a feature on water safety), Pasty, Socky Sock Sock
Trivia: The opening credits are preceded by with a mock newsflash about the What's Up Doc? characters. The show opens with masses of characters and crew having a huge bundle, followed by a second bundle when Andy mentions "Spam balloons". Pat and Andy are in dinner suits. Andy shows a photo of his new daughter Eleanor; Pat shows off his new shorter haircut; Yvette announces her pregnancy. Premiere of "the What's Up Doc? It's Not Your Birthday song". Big Bro reveals that Gaston's legs are missing because they were eaten. A new section of set has been added: a courtyard with a fountain.
Videos: mock newsflash at start, full episode
Series 2 Episode 2
Broadcast: 11th September 1993
Music guests: Chakademus & Pliers
Other guests: Greg & Max (bananas), David Greenwood (radio sound effects)
Characters: Naughty Torty (answering questions on 'Mastertort' hosted by Andy), Wolves, Simon (opens a theme park in the studio, Brassic Park, charging Pat £93 and leaving him "boracic"), Baljit, Those Amazing Bull Fishes, Pasty (theatrical impresario holding auditions)
Trivia: Pat launches Guess the Girth competition, measuring Yvette's girth at 92cm that week, That's My Grandfather's Clock (sketch where eccentrics (Peter Cocks and Woody Taylor?) discuss Batman), Baljit's Big Thing (local events: Pantomime Horse Derby in Bognor Regis)
Videos: full episode
Series 2 Episode 3
Broadcast: 18th September 1993
Music guests: M People
Other guests: World of Wrestling, Sylvester McCoy, Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer
Characters: Simon, Baljit, Pasty (theatre impresario), Invisible Man, Those Amazing Bull Fishes
Undergrounders: first episode of the EastEnders parody about Pasty and his family
Videos: full episode
Series 2 Episode 4
Broadcast: 25th September 1993
Series 2 Episode 5
Broadcast: 2 October 1993
Series 2 Episode 6
Broadcast: 9 October 1993
Series 2 Episode 7
Broadcast: 16 October 1993
Series 2 Episode 8
Broadcast: 23 October 1993
Series 2 Episode 9
Broadcast: 30 October 1993
Series 2 Episode 10
Broadcast: 6 November 1993
Series 2 Episode 11
Broadcast: 13 November 1993
Series 2 Episode 12
Broadcast: 20 November 1993
Series 2 Episode 13
Broadcast: 27 November 1993
Series 2 Episode 14
Broadcast: 4 December 1993
Series 2 Episode 15
Broadcast: 11 December 1993
Series 2 Episode 16
Broadcast: 18 December 1993
Series 2 Episode 17
Broadcast: 25 December 1993
Peter Cocks remembers in his blog how, at the end of this episode, Gary Glitter almost choked on glitter.
Update 26/10/06. Laurence Akers, who worked on the programme, has been kind enough to email me:
'I've just been looking at your What's Up Doc? Site. Brought the memories flooding back. I was Music Associate on the show for half of series one and most of series two until Vanessa [Hill – see below] and Ged [Allen] left. I have to say it was the most enjoyable experience of my life. Every week I'd have to approach the bands or music guests and ask if they'd mind having the characters dance with them at the end of the show. Most of them said yes and ironically it was the one’s who said no that looked stupid.'
Update 19/08/03. After emailing Andy Crane some time ago, I'm delighted to have received an email from Vanessa Hill (kindly referred to the site by Andy Crane), who also worked on the programme:
'Andy Crane just forwarded me the details of your website entry/site on What's Up Doc?. My partner and I were responsible for most of the stuff you mention with the contributions of John [Eccleston] and Don [Austen] who did the wolves, Stephen [Taylor Woodrow] and Peter [Cocks - website] who did most of the characters, the presenters who were game and lots of others who pitched in (Peter's brother used to come down on Saturdays and do Billy Box and a lot of the production team featured as well).I produced series 1 and half of series 2 before leaving the show. I'd forgotten half of the stuff we did but it all came flooding back and made me laugh!'
Thank you for emailing, Vanessa, and thanks for your contributions to this page.