1988 - 1992 (ITV Winter)

Neil Buchanan (88-92)
Andrea Arnold (88-90)
Tony Gregory (88-90)
Julian Ballantyne (88-89)
Caroline Hanson (88-89)
Steve Johnson (89-92)
Gaby Roslin (89-92)
Andy Crane (90-92)
["Spin off" (88/89): Roger Sloman,
Richard Waites,
Pippa Michaels, Joe Greco]

Motormouth - a title in search of a programme.

At first, Motormouth was very poor. Because it spent so much effort trying to be trendy - and, basically, to distance itself from the whimsical No. 73 - its clunky beginnings were doubly embarrassing. The trouble was, the show was still made by TVS and pretty much the same production team as 73. Beneath all the whizzy graphics and clever camera angles - and give or take an audience of pre-teens being wheeled about on fork-lift trucks - the programme was still just a generic magazine programme padded out with cartoons and students from Maidstone Art School. It even included She-Ra - Princess of Power, for God's sake. Trendy is not the word.

A good indicator of its troubled genesis was that Neil Buchanan - never the most natural performer on 73 - looked immeasurably more professional alongside the other presenters: Julian Ballantyne, who never stopped SHOUTING, Tony Gregory, who couldn't maintain a look of interest while interviewing, and poor old Andrea Arnold (No. 73's Dawn), who tripped over her words quite alarmingly. A few weeks into the run they were joined by Caroline Hanson.

Another example of its muddled approach was that the show still contained a fictional element (like 73). The programme was topped and tailed by "Spin-off", supposedly the goings on at the studios which produced Motormouth. ("Motomouth comes to you LIVE from the Spin Off Complex, Maidstone.") But not only was it not very funny, lacking the freshness of 73, it also sat uncomfortably with the desperately serious-minded Motormouth. By the end of the first series the pretence had been dropped, and the Spin-off segments were introduced by the Motormouth presenters.

To imply some sort of progression, the second series was billed as "Motormouth 2". The progression consisted of replacing Ballantyne and Hanson with Steve Johnson and Gaby Roslin. The show's high-brow pretensions slipped further with the advent of the game "Gunge 'Em in the Dungeon."

For the third series (you guessed it, "Motormouth 3") the show was almost completely relaunched. Kind of. Roslin and Johnson remained - as inevitably, did Neil Buchanan. They were joined by star transfer - or, depending how you look at it, Children's BBC refugee - Andy Crane. Looking really rather uncomfortable in a teenage skateboarder's outfit (complete with baseball cap ), Crane rushed onto the new set and promised a show "the like of which we'd never seen before". And while third series did continue the show's slow improvement, this claim was a tad over-the-top. By now Johnson was presenting a game show segment based on the board game 'Mouse Trap'.  

In the fourth series Motormouth again attempted a narrative element which worked somewhat better than 'Spin Off'. Every week we would see the story of four members of the production team. The 'fly on the wall'-style story was always comical in nature and usually centred around a mix up over guests or lost/broken props/prizes, etc. To ensure that viewers got the idea of it being connected to the main show a fictional door separated the two sets and on the odd occasion the "drama" would unfold onto the show itself. "I can remember two of the characters, Max and Millie and possibly the third was called Julie, I cannot for the life of me remember the fourth or the names of the actors although I do know that the fourth was a regular on 'Chef'," says Philip Prise. "The reason I think it worked better than the original 'Spin-off'' is that it was more clearly thought out as to how it would fit into the programme and not a desperate attempt to maintain a link to 'No.73'."

Interestingly, this segment ended on the final edition with the characters discovering oil beneath the studios (suspension of disbelief required) and thus becoming rich. I say interesting, because this plot had previously been used on the final edition of 7T3 back in 1988. One wonders whether Maidstone Borough council knows about the rich oil seams under their town...

"All said, the fourth series was the best series and the show was at that stage preferable, I thought, to series 5 of 'Going Live!' (the one without Trevor and Simon)" adds Philip Prise. Viewers seemed to agree, as, despite its blandness, the programme was at this point attracting more viewers than the opposition BBC show - for what would turn out to be the last time until SMTV Live a decade later. "Sadly," adds Philip, "ITV repeated the mistakes it made with 'Tiswas' and 'No. 73' and dropped something that was finally getting good, [leaving us with] six years of complete crap."  

So what, if anything, will Motormouth be remembered for? In short, introducing Gaby Roslin to the world (thanks) and failing to prop up Andy Crane's career. It had more success behind the scenes, with Tony Gregory going on to be a TV producer (most recently on Big Brother), and Andrea Arnold a director.

Two bonus pictures of the gorgeous and talented Caroline Hanson. Whatever happened to her?