Cool It (TV series)

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Cool It
Genre Comedy, impressionism
Created by Phil Cool
Jasper Carrott
Paul Alexander
Keith Donnelly
Barry Faulkner
Directed by David Weir
Starring Phil Cool
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 15
Production
Producer(s) Steve Weddle
Running time 25–30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel BBC Two
Original run 30 August 1985 (1985-08-30) – December 1990 (1990-12)

Cool It is a British television comedy series which first aired on BBC Two between 1985 and 1990. It was a vehicle for the rubber-faced comedian Phil Cool.

Whereas in 1985 there were irritating comedians,[who?] Cool was an "irritating impressionist" and would impersonate some of the most famous figures of the day. But these wouldn't be just vocal impressions of the intended victims, they would be full-fledged and extremely accurate facial expressions too, with Cool being able to contort his rubbery features into a caricature semblance of whomever he was impersonating. Sometimes so uncanny was this facial transformation that he didn't need any sketch material or props to back him up and could rely solely on the transformation.[citation needed]

Impressions ranged from political and important figures such as Robin Day, Roy Hattersly, Arthur Scargill, Neil Kinnock, The Pope and Ronald Reagan to popular celebrities, comedians and musicians such as Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Mike Harding, Terry Wogan, Billy Connolly, Clive James, Rik Mayall and his signature impression, Rolf Harris. Fictional characters like Quasimodo, Bugs Bunny and E.T were also impersonated; Cool even created personalities for inanimate objects such as Morris Minors and Volkswagen Beetles.

Series 1[edit]

The first series of three, 25-minute episodes were first broadcast between 30 August and 13 September 1985, on Fridays at 10pm. Cool wrote all of the material for this series himself.

The series was made on a shoestring budget, the set was very basic, with a relatively small audience and with barely any props to assist him, Cool had to rely on his skills as a performer to win over the crowd, this he did brilliantly. Cool It became an instant hit with television audiences and was repeated within a matter of months (which was unheard of at the time for a new television artist). Cool became a household name overnight.

Memorable moment's from this series were impressions of the entire cast of The Young Ones including Alexei Sayle (his Rik Mayall face got an uproarious laugh and a huge round of applause before he'd even delivered a single word). Prince Charles interviewing Mick Jagger, The Pope ordering something from a Fish and Chip shop, Rolf Harris painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Mike Harding singing the song "Spewie, Ewie" and Quasimodo playing the guitar whilst singing "The Bellringer's Blues".

Fellow Comedian and friend Jasper Carrott was associate producer on this series.

Each series of Cool It had a different set of opening titles, almost every episode would start with a sketch before the titles rolled.

For Series 1 it had an animated version of Cool's head pulling various faces behind a light-blue background. After the theme tune had finished the Cool It titles would drop down underneath the animated head and the episode would start.

Series 2[edit]

The Title Card for series 2 of Cool It in 1986.
The title card for Series 2 of Cool It in 1986.

The second series of five, 30-minute episodes were first broadcast between 24 November and 22 December 1986, on Mondays at 9pm. Cool co-wrote this series with Jasper Carrott.

Series 2 was indeed much of an improvement on the initial 3 episodes, this time around the series boasted a bigger more impressive set with a bigger audience. There were more prop's and even a few pre-recorded video insert's to assist him. It was this series that turned Cool It into a must see prime time show and Cool became one of the most popular comedians on television at that time. To further tie in with the show's success, Cool released a comedy album through Virgin Records called "Not Just a Pretty Face" and a single in which Cool (as Rolf Harris) sang a rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel song "Bridge Over Troubled Water". A tie-in book was also released entitled "Cool's Out" which sold well.

Memorable moment's from this series were Rolf Harris (literally) painting the audience, Griff Rhys Jones transforming (Werewolf style) into Dave Lee Travis. A memorable anecdote in which Cool reminisced about a disastrious gig at a club called "Quaffer's" in which he imitated the face of an Aquaphibian from the 60's show Stingray and it stuck. But the most memorable was the routine where he portrayed Terry Wogan as an Intergalactic Alien from Outer Space, when halfway through he imitated pulling a mask off to reveal an Alien Visage underneath. A critic later remarked that "His impersonation of an Alien from Outer Space was nightmare material and would have taken Steven Spielberg's Make-Up Artists hours to recreate the same Gruesome effect".

Cool's popularity was underlined when Series 2 won the Royal Television Society Award for "Most Original Television Achievement".

A screenshot from the opening titles of Series 2.
A screenshot from the Series 2 titles

The opening titles for Series 2 were done in a similar style to the Terry Gilliam animations from Monty Pythons Flying Circus. It started with an animated version of a Guitar and an Harmonica playing themselves in time with the Theme Tune. We then go inside the Harmonica to find 5 animated versions of Cool jumping Up and Down to the music. After that we see a long shot of Cool's head pulling a selection of funny faces while his head spins all the way round. His head then explodes revealing a variety of Mechanical works and Cogs inside his head, the lights go out and the Cool It logo appears on screen, the episode then starts.

Series 3[edit]

The title card which appeared on every episode of Series 3 of Cool It.
The title card for Series 3 in 1988.

After a one-year break, Cool It returned for another series. The third series of 6, 30-minute episodes were first broadcast between 1 September and 6 October 1988, on Thursdays at 9 pm. Along with Cool, this time around the writers consisted of Keith Donnelly, Paul Alexander and Barry Faulkner.

This series boasted an even bigger set than the last and an even bigger audience. It was another success and quickly gained a repeat viewing after the final episode was broadcast.

Memorable moments included impressions of Ventriloquist Dummys, a parody of The Four Tops called "The Four Bottom's" performing a rendition of their song "Mooning". Imitations of telephone hold music and singing parts of the Elvis Presley song "Are You Lonesome Tonight" in Japanese.

A screenshot from the opening titles of Series 3.
A screenshot from the Series 3 titles

The opening titles for Series 3 started off with Cool relaxing on a chair watching television and then for no apparent reason the Series 2 titles appear on screen. Cool quickly uses the remote control to go to another channel but it doesn't work and it appears on screen again. He gets increasingly frustrated and starts gesticulating away in an angry manner. He then presses a red button at the top of the remote which operates a huge swinging ball behind him that smashes the TV screen. On the other side of the ball we see the Cool It logo; the episode then starts.

Christmas special[edit]

A final Cool It special was aired on Tuesday 18 December 1990.

Filmed in front of a live audience in Birmingham, memorable moment's included impersonations of the Gremlins, Terry Wogan interviewing Michael Crawford, technique's on how to distract Fishermen. A memorable routine about the hazards of the M25 Motorway and Prince Charles singing the Coil song "The Anal Staircase". After this Cool made the move to ITV.

Video and DVD release[edit]

The front cover for the video release of the "best of" Series 1 of Cool It in 1985.
The front cover for the video release of Cool It in 1985.

There were 2 video releases of Cool It, the first one was a "best of" compilation of Series 1 released in 1985. The second entitled Cool It Too was a video of the best moment's from Series 2, both became best seller's. In 1989 he released a video entitled Cool N Hot, recorded live at the Royal Leamington Spa Centre, most of the material from this appeared in the 1990 Christmas Special.

These videos have now become very rare to find, Cool It has never been released on DVD.

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