‘Bollocks’ is his catchphrase, bad taste his speciality. But now Roger Mellie really is the Man On The Telly. as Tom Lappin discovers.
lt‘s ironic I suppose. Viz cartoon‘s finest creation Roger Mellie — The Man On The Telly. based his appeal on being the sort of completely outrageous TV presenter you would love to see replacing the obnoxious blandness of Noel Edmonds or Terry Wogan. but you knew with his wealth ofexpletives and ideas for scatological game shows that it could never be. And what have they gone and done? Those people at Channel 4 have stuck him on the telly that‘s what. in a series of seasonal animations fora late-night post-pub audience. That‘s as much of a surprise to Roger’s creator. Chris Donald the editor of Viz. as it is to the rest of
us. ‘What happened was that we gave up the idea of it going on TV.‘ he explains. ‘We just thought we would make it as a video and sell it in the shops and not put it on TV. And after it was all written and being made. Channel 4 said “Oh. we‘ll show that. we‘re big and brave. we‘ll put it on.“ And then they started having second thoughts. The commissioning editor from Channel 4 came to the sound-recording for the voices and started cringing every time there was an f-word. But in the end they decided to go with it.’
‘He says bollocks only once at the beginning of each little six-minute instalment. But he does say 22 lucks.’
And the Roger you know and love from the comic won‘t be substantially bowdlerised it seems. ‘He says bollocks, once at the beginning of each little six-minute instalment. But he does say 22 fucks. We were surprised actually. The video company printed the first batch of sleeves with the ‘18‘ certificate on them. and then they said it was definitely a ‘15’. Apparently they‘ve just changed the rules about swearing and ‘fuck‘ isn‘t a swear word any more. It‘s been desworn.‘
The Viz crew are currently basking in the glory of being indirectly responsible for the resignation of the England football coach Steve Harrison. On a trip with his club the soccer prankster tried to entertain his players by emulating Roger Mcllic‘s Celebrity Shit In a Bucket idea. The club‘s directors were not amused. ‘We were proud as pcas.‘ says Donald. ‘It was quite remarkable. We didn’t realise our inﬂuence stretched that far. But it was a bit harsh on them to sack him for what was just a practical joke. I think he did it into a paper cup while standing on a dressing table. Quite an achievement. They should have congratulated him.‘
78 The List 20 December 1991 — 16 January 1992
The Mellie character is very dear to Donald’s heart. ‘I came up with Roger in about 1983 after meeting a TV presenter called Rod Griffiths who swore a lot.” he says. ‘Roger is based on a lot of presenters though. They‘re all a bit overweight and they all drink too much. They‘re all a bit sure of themselves.‘
Getting the right voice for the part. a blend of mindless vulgarity and showbiz smarm. was slightly problematic. ‘We asked Harry [infield first because he’d done Billy The Fish and he was cheap.‘ says Donald. ‘He said he didn’t really know what voice to use for Roger Mellie. he tried a few and was unable to do it. He actually did 30 seconds of the voice for Comic Relief and he wasn‘t very happy doing it. We thought about Peter Cook. because he seemed to have the right history. with Derek And Clive and all that. and we sort of talked amongst ourselves about him doing
it and then Harry [infield suggested Peter Cook as well. and indicated that he would probably be quite keen to do it. So we approached him and he said he would.‘
Roger is Viz‘s second venture into TV. Billy The
‘Roger is based on a lot of presenters . though. They’re all a bit overweight and they all drink too much. They’re all a bit
sure of themselves.
Fish having already astonished viewers with its extremely cheap shoddiness last year. Roger promises to be equally tacky. ‘We wanted something like Captain Pugwash. where the animation was as shoddy as the storyline.‘ says Donald. and that's worked quite well. We don’t want to get too complacent about it though. Billy the Fish was quite easy to do and Roger Mellie‘s been pretty easy. but we’re not entirely happy with the animation. Mind you. the video company. Polygram. are very happy and want to do Sid the Sexist and the Fat Slags. We're thinking of using puppets though rather than just cartoons.’
The Viz media saturation campaign gathers pace. Any chance of a Fulehester TV franchise? ‘We thought about it.’ says Donald. ‘We would probably have got (irampian or Border ifwe could have raised the £3().‘
Roger Mellie — The Man On The Telly is on Channel 4 from Monday 30 December—Friday 3 January at around midnight.
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