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I TALK TO Dave Benson Phillips

To celebrate three years of I Talk Telly I've been speaking to many of my childhood hereoes, and today it's the turn of Dave Benson Phillips, who talks to me about Pat Sharp, the possibility of Get Your Own Back returning and who the celebs were he wanted on the show but for one reason or another couldn't secure.

During the nineties there were three words no adult wanted to hear, and they were "Crank it up", especially if you found yourself in a TV studio sat above a pool of gunge.

I am of course talking about Get Your Own Back, a very messy game show for CBBC which ran for 12 years and was presented by Dave Benson Phillips.

The show allowed children to get their own back on a parent, their teacher or even their grandma and compete in a series of ridiculous games to get the chance to flip them off their seat and into the gunge. I remember as a kid never wanting to miss the show and I'd always think of who I wanted to get my own back on. One minute it would be my mum, then my dad and then it'd be my schoolteacher.

First of all, how important was Get Your Own Back for your career?

Oh it was quite amazing really. Important? I guess every show that I've ever done is, yeah. It was very good, it was a fantastic time. It was great to be there at the very beginning during its planning and its construction, right through to when the public saw it. We knew it was a good programme, but we didn't know how much the nation would take it to their heart. So yeah, it was quite an incredible thing to be a part of.

You mentioned just then how you helped to come up with the show, what was that process like?

At the time when it was first thought of, and conceived, there was my manager, myself and a man called Mr Peter Lesley, and to him we owe our huge debt of thanks. He was the guy at the BBC who had a lot of experience of how game shows worked so we all put our ideas into a pot, and out came this 15-minute episode which then became half an hour thing a few series in.

Whose idea was it to have so much gunge?

Well funnily enough, there was always grunge in one way or another, so we looked at it and thought, well what a wonderful way to humiliate a grown up!

How easy was it to convince adults to come on the show and get gunged?

That was down to the BBC staff who would up an advert to say we've got a gameshow which gets a chance for kids to get their own back on grown ups. They would explain the principal and some adults would think - "Yeah, why not? It could be a lot of fun!"

Some did object, and there are stories of where researchers would go around to people's houses and everyone would pretend to be out. (Laughs) Once everyone knew what was going on and the series had been on for a while, there were a lot of adults who were like - "I'm not doing that. It's scary!" ...and some of it was!

In our office we're still getting enquiries to do live versions of the show, to record specialist versions for people, so we know it's still out there and people want to do it. Per year we had anything between 50 to 100,000 letters come in form children all over the country saying - "We would like to get our grown ups... mums, dads, aunties, uncles, grandmas, granddads in the grunge!", for whatever reason they had.

Do you think Get Your Own Back would still work if the BBC were to bring it back?

I don't know... I'd like to think it would. Most people say that there are certain shows that were of their time. But I would say if you gave a chance for a child the chance to get a grown up covered in something nasty on national television, there's always going to be a place for it. Will it come back? We're still working on things... It's a case of watch this space.

I recently spoke to Pat Sharp and he mentioned how he saw Get Your Own Back as a "poor man's Fun House" - What would you say in response to that?

Oh he always says that! I liked Fun House... funnily enough I was one of the people they auditioned for Fun House so that would have been interesting. But I just got Get Your Own Back by that point, so the idea of doing two programmes in opposition of each other, which would both have grunge and mess galore, would have been quite an interesting one.

It's nice to have healthy competition... we were the Oasis and Blur of our day!

Do you miss the grunge at all?

No I don't! Because we worked with it every other week! (Laughs)

What do you make of kids TV today?

Well they often say it isn't the same, but the thing about children's television that it's the years that you grew up with that you look back on and you tend not to understand anything either side of. The thing about television nowadays is that children have more access to it. It's all about integration.

In my day it was all about entertainment, education and integration was one of the things that was coming in. But now you look at it, you have shows that not only inform and entertain, but they also give you a chance to have your say or your input.

It's multiplatform now if you look at it. You've got apps, you've got behind the scenes, you've got suggestions you can make to shows. Many aren't even watching television anymore, you can watch most of the shows online. It's a different way of accessing children's television, it's very exciting and I like it and I'm trying to make in roads.

But has it changed? Yeah... technology has changed, but the principals are the same. At the end of the day children are still being entertained and as long as the producers and programme makers have the audience in mind and the intelligence of the audience in mind it's always going to be great.

You must get recognised all the time out and about because of Get Your Own Back?

Oh yeah, and imagine my surprise when kids say to me - "We've watched your YouTube, our daddy used to watch you and we watch you on YouTube..." and you're like really?! But OK... so that's a weird one. There's a lot of that going on and also there's people who used to watch me on TV and come up to me and say - "Hey, how you doing?" - which is nice.

I've got to admit, entertaining children, I never thought that one I'd be doing it for so long, and two that I'd be recognised for it. And then there's the internet generation, and there's quite a division where you have people who just want to get in contact with you and say hi, and then of course you've got the darker side.

Certain sites I won't mention, because I don't know if you've done any research on me but apparently I've been dead several times.

Dave was surprised when I revealed to him that I have done my research and that I have read the stories regarding the death hoax and the various other rumours about him. but didn't want to take this interview there. He said I must be one of the first journalists not to have started with that question and that he keeps turning down documentaries because they never want to be sympathetic. I explained to him how this piece is all about nostalgia and that I wasn't not interested in discussing those stories with him.

What's next for you then?

I'm doing a show for Channel 4 but I can't really say much about it, but it's going to go out very soon! It's one of my first overtly adult things that I've done. I cannot say anything more than that, all I'm going to tell you is that when I was approached to do it, I literally fell off my chair.

I was very worried because I've been adopted by the nation as a warm fluffy children's entertainer, and then all of a sudden someone says - "We want you to do this project, but we need you to be a bit broad minded..." They sent me a little but of film and I thought, do you know what? I'll do it!

I'm doing Panto as well, playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz and it's at the Epsom Playhouse.

I also did Boj for CBeebies with Jason Donovan, that's going out and enjoying good viewing figures. So yeah, we're doing stuff.

Finally I couldn't let you go without asking who you would want to get your own back on?

I don't know... I've always had this long list of people I'd love to put on the show, a list of the ones that got away! That was quite upsetting. I can't think of anyone I'd like to get my own back on... not at the moment! I do reminisce about the ones that we wanted to get on the show, but just couldn't quite get at the time.

They know who they are! Oh yeah, they know. We wanted Jonathan Ross and his brother Paul on and the other one was Ant & Dec, we just wanted them to oppose each other. We were trying for ages to get them on!


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