Brainchild of British surrealist comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, and a loving parody of British celebrity Panel Games. The questions made little sense, the answers made no sense, and the top prize could be as much as £120.
The show was hosted in a traditional Panel Game format, with Vic and Bob in the middle acting as quizmasters and two teams on either side, headed a regular team captain. Team B was always hosted by TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson, while Team A was initially hosted by greasy-haired 1950s throwback Mark Lamarr (who himself hosted the Panel Game Nevermind The Buzzcocks for over a decade), later by English intellectual and novelist Will Self (during which time comedian Johnny Vegas became a regular contestant on Ulrika's panel), and later still by comedian Jack Dee. The scores would be read out by George Dawes, a giant baby played by Matt Lucas (later the star of Little Britain). Sometimes George's mother, Marjorie, (also played by Lucas) would take over.
The show followed roughly the same format each time. After an initial song and dance, Vic and Bob would introduce the team captains, and voiceover man Graham would read out a short biography of the guests. These rarely said what the guests were famous for and were usually just a tissue of lies (for example, that singer Alvin Stardust hid for 30 years inside a cow).
There would then follow a question-and-answer round, where the answers were almost impossible to guess correctly (e.g., "True or false: Cupboard doors open outwards"; the answer is "false" because the question is asked from the perspective of a trapped cat). After this, there would be a random selection of other rounds including video rounds, in which the contestants must answer a question based on a short sketch; impressions rounds in which Vic sings a song in the style of an incoherent nightclub singer and the guests must guess what it is; and the interpretive dance round in which a guest must express something through the medium of dance.
However, the most popular section was the "Dove From Above" round in which the guests would call down a shoddily-made prop dove with question topics growing from its body. If the contestants answered the question incorrectly, Vic would pull a face and say "UVAVU"; if they chose a special category he would pull a different face and say "ERANU". This, of course, resulted in much imitation in schools and workplaces across the UK. Sometimes the topic would signal "George's Song", in which George would take centre stage and sing a song on various topics including potatoes, peanuts, hip-hop and lesbians. Variations on The Dove from Above included The Crow from Below, The Vest from the West, The Beast from the East and George Dawes from the Upper Floors. The Dove was replaced in later series by a succession of "guest stars" (such as the Crow from Below and the Fly from On High), then the Wonderful, Wonderful Car, a tiny remote-controlled car that fired questions out of its prosthetic arse, and finally Donald Cox the Sweaty Fox, who would make salacious remarks about Ulrika and the celebs. In 2009 the Dove was, at last, brought back — now sporting overly-tight shoes.
There were three distinct eras of the show: the first ran from 1995 to 1997 (following an earlier 1993 pilot with team captains Jonathan Ross and Danny Baker), and the second for two series in 2002. A 15th-Anniversary Special was broadcast on 30 December 2008 with most of the original cast returning and Jack Dee filling in as the captain of Team A, alongside a retrospective documentary. The result was a new series which began in August the following year, with a new regular guest panelist in the form of Angelos Epithemiou. In 2010, George Dawes left, and Angelos took over scoring. The show ended for the third time following its cancellation after the 2011 series.
A year later, Reeves and Mortimer attempted a Spiritual Successor to Shooting Stars entitled Lucky Sexy Winners for Channel 4, that only survived the pilot stage.
This show provides examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming:
- Some people use their first names "Vic and Bob" while others use their surnames "Reeves and Mortimer" to describe their partnership—a recent gag is for people to mix these two up and call them "Vic and Mortimer".
- A few times you can hear Bob accidentally call Vic "Jim", his real name.
- Adam Westing: Played to a degree with certain contestants such as Johnny Vegas and Jack Dee, who are portrayed as the caricatures of themselves that they perform in their own shows (a drunken slob and a grumpy middle aged man respectively) rather than their actual personas.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Bob liked to call Johnny Vegas "a big bag of bollocks".
- Blatant Lies: The show used to be introduced with a narrator giving these as 'facts' about the celebrity contestants. Also a lot of the question answers: getting Vic and Bob's true or false questions right is a matter of pure luck.Bob: True or false: Bill Cosby was the first black man ever.Ulrika: False.Bob: Yes, of course it's false: it was Sidney Poitier.
- Butt-Monkey: Fifties throwback Mark Lamarr.
- Ulrika too, the amount of flak she takes from her age, apparent plastic surgery and, ahem, sexual activity; it's amazing she's stayed on the show so long.
- Catchphrase "ERANU!", "UVAVU!", "Ulkrika-ka-ka-ka-ka!", etc.
- Character as Himself: In the revived series, Angelos Epithemiou is credited as playing himself. He is actually played by Renton Skinner, a regular on The Armstrong and Miller Show.
- Peter Serafinowicz also appears as Brian Butterfield in one episode, and Matt Berry inexplicably as the musician Vangelis in another.
- Chirping Crickets: Vic usually decides to tell a joke, despite being warned off by Bob. It always bombs; the lonely wind howls, the others look embarrassed or turn their faces away from him. Often, a tumbleweed drifts through the studio. At one point, a whole funeral procession appears, complete wth Grim Reaper.
- On one occasion, Vic has an Imagine Spot where he lets Bob do the joke and it turns out to be so funny that the whole audience comes down to congratulate him — so he quickly does it himself instead, and of course it bombs as usual.
- Another time, Mark Lamarr steps in to "tell the joke properly". It is treated as the funniest joke the programme created. Occasionally scuppered by foreign guest stars unfamiliar with the format, who accidentally burst out laughing at how bad the joke actually is, the stony reception it receives, and the presence of a real life tumbleweed rolling across the studio floor.
- Cool Versus Awesome: One of the quickfire questions was "Which would win in a fight between a steel octo-bear and some sort of strange man-fungus?"
- Couch Gag: In the Theme Tune. Initially, the second and third lines of the song were "The stars have been greeted/and successfully seated". This later became "The stars have been seated/and successfully greeted", before eventually devolving into nonsense — "I like brambles/I like cheese" being particularly memorable.
- Disco Dan: Vic and Bob usually referred to Mark Lamarr as a "Fifties Throwback".
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: sung on-set by Vic and Bob at the beginning and end of each episode.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The first series - whilst still pretty quirky - played out more like a conventional panel show, with more regular general knowledge questions and George Dawes only showing up to read out scores. By series 2, Dawes' role increased and the format began to resemble the anarchic and surreal style that it's most reknowned for.
- Fish out of Water: Larry Hagman had no idea what was going on but was a good sport and tried to roll with the punches.
- Foreign Remake: Parodied by one of the film clips, which is supposedly a remake of The Incredible Hulk (1977) done on a shoestring budget by the Sunderland Independent Film Trust.
- Funny Background Event: Fairly often, such as a self-propelled deckchair or mannequin dragging itself across the studio in the middle of a question, ignored by everyone.
- Gag Penis:Bob: "Love me for a reason, and let the reason be...?"
Bob: "No, my thirty-seven-and-a-half inch penis."
- Insistent Terminology: Bob always referred to Johnny Vegas' shirts as "gowns".
- Vic and Bob also call any kind of hat "a helmet", which started on their earlier programmes.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: While it has yet to be explicitly brought up, (and is most likely coincidence) both current team captains — founder captain Ulrika Johnsson and new captain Jack Dee — have won Celebrity Big Brother.
- Lyrical Tic: more a lyrical speech impediment, really. Songs In The Club Singer Style.
- Mythology Gag: Or possibly just recycling — e.g., Donald Cox the Sweaty Fox first appeared as a glove puppet on Vic Reeves Big Night Out.
- Once Bob asked Ulrika what name she would use if she was a Gladiator, then asked the same question to guest Noddy Holder. Noddy replied "Cup-a-Soup!", which had been the Trademark Favorite Food of his band Slade when Vic and Bob had mocked them in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer.
- The 2011 series has seen "What's in Angelos' Bag" (a variation on "What's on the end of the stick, Vic?" from Vic Reeves Big Night Out) as well as the appearance of Vic and Bob's recurring characters the Stotts as exorcists.
- Norse by Norsewest: Often these clichés are applied to Ulrika Jonsson, a Swede.
- Oop North: There is a Geordie flavour to many of the film clips.
- The Points Mean Nothing: And there's no logic involved in gaining them either. Vic and Bob have no idea what the scorekeeper is going to say when they ask him to announce the scores.
- Really Gets Around: Ulrika Jonsson is, as we were frequently told in 2002, football crazy, even football madnote , to the point where Bob Mortimer couldn't think of a footballer that Ulrika hadn't had.
- Running Gag: Sadly overused in the final series, to the point where it seemed like a Clip Show of previous episodes.
- Some decided to stop watching the show after thinking that they had accidentally put the previous week's show on, only to realise that it was in fact a new episode that just had exactly the same jokes and songs. Happily rectified as of Series 7 in 2010.
- Shout-Out: Possible subtle example in Series 5. At the end of every episode (like every other series) the panel members start dancing about to the theme song. However in Series 5 they are joined by an otherwise unseen attractive woman who walks in from off camera and otherwise has nothing to do with the proceedings. This may be a Hotter and Sexier version of Morecambe and Wise's "Lady Who Comes Down At The End" gag, especially since Vic and Bob are often compared to Eric and Ernie in chemistry.
- The woman was Nancy Sorrell, Vic's then-girlfriend (now wife).
- Small Name, Big Ego: George Dawes and Angelos Epithemou both act like this when addressing team members before giving the scores. In George Dawes' case this is somewhat Hilarious in Hindsight, as Matt Lucas really did go on to become a headlining star.
- Stealth Pun: One of the film clips is supposedly of the band The Who, but its members have been replaced with different incarnations of the Doctor from Doctor Who.
- The Stoic: Team A's captain whoever it is, although Jack Dee has had his fair share of Not So Stoic moments.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Will Self and then Jack Dee for Mark Lamarr, Angelos Epithemiou for Jonny Vegas, and the Wonderful Wonderful Car and Donald Cox the Sweaty Fox for the Dove From Above.
- As of Series 7, Angelos Epithemiou for George Dawes, due to Matt Lucas' filming commitments.
- Running Gag: Vic Reeves' jokes about Jack Dee's face. Jack remains deadpan throughout, but ocassionally becomes Not So Stoic.
- Universal-Adaptor Cast: Some questions feature film clips, typically spoofs of other media, which star the regulars on the show in other roles.
- Who's on First?:
- "What is the unit of power?" Vic never got it.
- There are questions like this every now and again. Recently; "What is the English translation of Pardonnez-moi?"
- Brilliantly done in one episode when James Buckley got the question, "James may? True or false." Guess which Top Gear presenter was also sitting on the panel?
- Zonk: In early seasons, the prizes were always a few dozen pounds. More recently, they consist of "this one-pound luncheon voucher!" or similar.