1 9 9 5 – 1 9 9 8 (UK)
30 x 30 minute episodes
Comedian Caroline Aherne interviewed celebrity guests in this Granada-produced show for BBC1 in the guise of her alter ego, the outrageous sixty-something agony aunt Mrs Merton – the pensioner’s friend.
In her floral print dresses, NHS glasses and leatherette sandals, she looked like Mary Whitehouse on a bad day as she ambushed her guests in front of a live studio audience with wickedly scripted questions – she famously asked Debbie McGee, “What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”
Guests included Germaine Greer, Michael Parkinson, Debbie McGee, Barbara Windsor, Bob Mortimer, Jo Brand, Johnny Briggs, Amanda Barrie, Matthew Kelly, Carol Vorderman, Lorraine Kelly, Vic Reeves, Rolf Harris, Chris Eubank, Dale Winton, Paul Daniels, George Best, Mandy Smith, Dave Lee Travis, Russell Grant, Mary Whitehouse, Gary Rhodes, Ned Sherrin, Peter Stringfellow, Ken Livingstone, Fred Talbot, Jimmy Hill, Kriss Akabusi, Noddy Holder, Clive James, Vinnie Jones, Joanna Lumley, Martin Clunes, Jeremy Clarkson, Boy George, Michael Winner, Jonathan Ross, Max Bygraves, Keith Chegwin, Sacha Distel, Ian Botham, Edwina Currie, Steve Coogan, Shane Richie, Wayne Sleep, Keith Floyd, Jimmy Tarbuck, Richard Whiteley, Bernard Manning, Garry Bushell, Barry McGuigan and Nigel Kennedy.
Music was provided for the first two series by Hooky and the Boys, led by Aherne’s husband, Peter Hook, former bassist with Joy Division and New Order. The couple had an acrimonious split in 1996, and the band did not return for series three.
Two ill-advised American specials in 1997 – Mrs Merton in Las Vegas – saw interviews with Tony Curtis, Patrick Duffy, Bo Derek and Engelbert Humperdinck. There was meant to be a third, but the first was such a disaster that the BBC ditched it.
The Mrs Merton Show finally came to a close when the fourth series ended in April 1998. Aherne moved on to The Royle Family with her longtime writing partner, Craig Cash (who occasionally also appeared as Mrs Merton’s drippy son, Malcolm).
Caroline Aherne struggled with depression and alcoholism and embarked on a treatment programme for lung cancer in 2014. She died on 2 July 2016 of lung cancer at her home in Timperley. She was just 52.
Hooky and the Boys