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PARTY OVER FOR NOEL; Show axed as viewing figures hit all-time low.

TV CHIEFS are to axe Noel's House Party after it plummeted to an all- time ratings low in its eight-year run.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Noel Edmonds has been given another show to front.

The BBC have put their faith in the presenter and want him to host a new entertainment series to begin early next year.

The death knell for House Party was sounding for weeks as it limped behind its ITV Saturday prime- time rival Blind Date, hosted by Cilla Black.

Viewing figures dropped to less than six million for the first time last weekend, with an audience of 5.9million. In its glory years during the early 1990s, it was pulling audiences of 14million.

Noel, 50, claimed that the show getting axed was a mutual decision.

He said: "I am delighted this decision has been made. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

And the ageing presenter partly blamed young Boyzone heart-throb Ronan Keating for spoiling the Party with his new talent show Get Your Act Together.

Noel claimed: "We have suffered very badly because the Ronan Keating show on before us has turned out to be a disaster. That's dragged down our figures."

He also claimed that the show before House Party had also somehow hit the figures for the one after his - the Lottery.

And he crowed: "History will prove House Party was one of the most successful entertainment shows of all time."

March 20 will be the last ever House Party and Noel claimed: "It's going to be a ball."

BBC1 controller Peter Salmon admitted the show had lost its bite but insisted Edmonds still had television pulling power.

He said: "After eight brilliant years, Noel and the BBC feel that we have taken House Party to the top but now it's time to move on.

"We all agree that it's time to let Noel's talents loose on an exciting new project."

Whatever the BBC's ideas factory dreams up for the presenter, it could be his last chance to try to win the ratings battle.

Noel is in his third year of a four-year contract with the BBC. A spokeswoman for the channel said it was too early to say whether his contract would be renewed.

House Party's demise means the end of the Gotcha series, which sets up a different celebrity every week.

Kilmarnock striker and chat show host Ally McCoist is the latest victim. On Saturday, viewers will see him conned into singing his club's anthem with a `Russian opera singer'.

It was the show's second attempt to fool him. He had sworn he would never fall for a Gotcha after an earlier bid failed. He said: "Noel got me fair and square."

The BBC refused to confirm whether Noel's trademark character Mr Blobby would be joining him on his new show.

The brightly-coloured foam character's popularity has waned with the series.

He could become a thorn in Noel's side as he tries to re-invent himself. Noel said: "When we sat down to think about the series of Noel's House Party commissioned for autumn, it became clear that we had lots of great ideas but they didn't fit into the show's fomat.

"That seemed like the perfect point to say goodbye to House Party, while it is still one of the top shows on British TV and start planning a new show." In its first few years, the show was regarded as an anarchic breath of fresh air for British television, but it has since gone stale.

In 1994, ITV bosses revealed that eight years earlier they had rejected the show's format that made Noel his fortune.

Former Thames TV programme director David Elstein said: "I have regretted it ever since."
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Author:Morgan, Kathleen
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 26, 1999
Previous Article:Diary of the rise and fall of Mr Blobby and Co.
Next Article:The wrong message for the wrong audience.

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