The Saturday Night Story, ITV - review: Saturday night fever returns... courtesy of Gladiators, Gotchas and Pam's cleavage

A Gladiators reunion in Birmingham was the real highlight of the hour

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The Independent Culture

There’s no doubt about it, ITV’s two-part documentary The Saturday Night Story was cheap-o and self-congratulatory. A very different sort of television, in other words, from the shiny floor shows it set out to celebrate. Then again, they did spring for a Gladiators reunion (complete with referee John Anderson) at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham where the show was filmed. That had to be worth a watch.

Some big names from television past and present were interviewed, divulging behind-the-scenes gossip from their own shows, plus thoughts on what makes Saturday night telly so nostalgia-worthy in general. Ant and Dec giggled over a prank they’d played on an irate Gordon Ramsay, Matthew Kelly revisited the staircase he used to bound down in Game for a Laugh (“I’m a big fan of stairlifts now.”) and Les Dennis, ever-attuned to the bleakness at the heart of each joy, offered this analysis: “It was great, Saturday night telly, it made you not worry about the fact that you were staying in.”

Their topic was subdivided into variety shows (from The Generation Game to Saturday Night Takeaway), hidden camera stunts (from Candid Camera to Beadle’s About and the Gotchas on Noel Edmonds’ House Party) and dance (from The Young Generation to Strictly), some requiring more explanation than others. The appeal of Baywatch, for instance, is obvious (three words: Pamela Anderson’s cleavage) so cast-member Alexandra Paul instead revealed an important trade secret:“You can’t run fast when you’re shooting slo mo, because then your cheeks go up and down.” Good to know.

That Gladiators reunion was, however, the real highlight of the hour. It was sobering to note that Saracen is now working as a firefighter, Jet has retrained as a psychotherapist and the pantomime baddie Wolf (as gentle as a lamb in real life) runs a chain of gyms in New Zealand. Ah, but fame is a fickle mistress.