A series about life for the staff of Spatz, a branch of a Canadian fast food franchise that has opened in England. The Canadian managerial staff are ‘TJ’ Strickand, overseen by Karen Hansson. Spatz ran for 3 series/33 episodes on afternoon Children’s ITV, 1990-1992, and was repeated at least once on morning ITV (around 1995).
For me, at a time when it felt grown-up just to be drinking tea, and finding myself enjoying Brookside and Birds Of A Feather almost as much as cartoons, Spatz brought sitcom to a child audience, without being patronising. The characters were larger than life, but only slightly, and the romantic tensions were as obligatory as the canned laughter.
Updates: 31/07/03 – The Episode Guide is now complete. New answer added to the Questions? section, looking at the chances of Spatz coming back. The webpage has now had visits from Canada (there is a London in Ontario) and the USA, as well as the UK!
28/06/03 – The first of the questions and answers have been posted. Very interesting.
16/06/03 – Two cast photos are now available for you to look at! And the episode guide is getting fuller. Let me know if you have any opinions on the format of the website.
14/06/03 – A major update to this website is in progress, thanks to the generosity of Grant Cathro. Look below for a link to the site’s new episode guide with special info about how Spatz came together. If you have any queries or compliments for the Grant Cathro, one of the creative forces behind Spatz, don’t hesitate to email me and I’ll pass them on.
Thanks to emails from Stephen and Joseph, both Spatz enthusiasts, I have been able to augment the list of episode plots, and hope to continue doing so, so please check back over the summer! Other than that, I’m still picking up bits and pieces across the Internet, and adding to the cast list.
I am privileged to have been contacted by Grant Cathro, who as Spatz co-writer has an invaluable amount to offer this page. Please visit again as there will be more and more to discover about Spatz!
Episode Guide & History Of Spatz & Questions?
A work in progress. Click here.
All files in wav format.
As far as I know, this is the first site to offer the themes for download. If for some reason the links don’t work, contact me and I will happily email you the files. Enjoy! (The first time I got told off in Junior School was for sitting at my desk and stamping out the Spatz theme on the classroom floor!) By the way, the excellent music is by David Stafford.
I’m really sorry about the quality of these pictures – the scanner has a mind of its own, as they say. I hope the faces help to ring a few bells (sorry, another cliché).
Cast and crew
Jennifer Calvert – Karen Hansson
(Dominatrix witch type; answers only to Head Office; hates everyone and the feeling is mutual… but she is human underneath)
Also been in: T-Bag, The Bill, Stargate SG-1, Brookside, Red Dwarf, Doctors
Paul Michael – Thomas Jefferson Strickland, a.k.a. TJ
(North American ‘nice guy’ but under Karen’s thumb)
Grant Cathro says: ‘Paul worked hard and ceaselessly to pump life into Spatz’s “straight man” and make him memorable. I was always hugely impressed by what he did.’
Moved to Hollywood to pursue acting
Vas Blackwood – Dexter Williams
(Cool but with an air of superiority)
Also been in: Casualty, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Mean Machine, Only Fools And Horses, I Love 1984
Sue Devaney – Jo Collins
(Cheeky Northern lass; appeared in Series 1)
Joe Greco – Vince Powers
Also seen as: Co-presenter of CITV game show Megamania
Ling Tai – Lily Quang
(Nice but dull. Appeared in Series 1 and once in Series 2)
Also been in: Bergerac, Doctor Who, Coronation Street
Stephanie Charles – Debby Wesley
Jonathan Copestake – Stanley Rydale
(Slow-witted yet loveable type)
Also been in: Prime Suspect 4, As Time Goes By, Inspector Morse, The Bill
Katy Murphy – Fiona Reddy, a.k.a. Freddy
(Fun-loving Scotsgirl; appeared in Series 2 & 3)
Also been in: Holby City, Casualty, Mike & Angelo, The Bill
Guest artistes include:
Nicholas Parsons as Himself
Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Kevin And Perry Go Large)
Seeta Indrani as ‘Majorie‘ (The Bill, Casualty, Footballers’ Wives)
Kludo White (The Bill)
Kate Marberly (Daniel Deronda)
John Carrigan (The Bill, The Brittas Empire)
James O’Rourke (The Bill)
John Lloyd Fillingham (The Bill, Coronation Street)
Libby Morris (Space Patrol, Casualty, Mike & Angelo)
Stella Duffy (The Bill, The Secret)
Lenny The Lion and Terry Hall
Grant Cathro says: ‘Lee Pressman and I, as lead writers on the show, did much of the casting ourselves, often auditioning actors in our office at Thames Television whilst in the midst of actually writing the scripts. We were very ably assisted by casting director Joyce Nettles (late of the Royal Shakespeare Company) who often made super suggestions. We’ve always adored weird casting mixes’
Created by Andrew Bethell
Produced by Carol Commisso and Alan Horrox
Written by Lee Pressman and Grant Cathro; Jim Eldridge
Directed by Stan Swan; Baz Taylor
Recorded at Grip House, Greenford (England)
A YTV/Thames Television production
Thanks to Chris from Canada, for explaining that ‘“Canadian content” rules force [Canadian TV channel] YTV to create original series often with the help of foreign networks for full financing.’
A miniature man in top hat and tails with a cane dances on the hamburger of a Spatz meal, fleeing just before the top bun of the burger is slammed down on the meat. Then there is a run-through of the cast. Then we see the man dancing down between two rows of burgers, before the scene becomes the neon Spatz logo (a representation of the man) in the window. Spats, according to the dictionary, are gaiters (calf and ankle coverings that run onto the shoes) that form part of the man’s outfit. Download Opening Theme
There is a preview of the next week’s episode (Download an example). Through the front window, we see TJ and the staff cleaning up for a few seconds before the lights go off and the credits scroll. Download Closing Theme
Advert for Spatz
I was fortunate enough to find an advert for Spatz on an old video, featuring clips spliced from a range of episodes. You can listen to it here. The ad runs like this:
§ We see a mime artist, dressed in black and white, dancing in the paved courtyard outside Spatz. The theme music starts up in the background.
§ The male voiceover opens with “Every Friday at 4:40 meet the happy staff from Spatz.” The staff stands in a line behind the counter, with cardboard grins tied to their faces, but looking tense underneath. (From episode 3.4, Extortion.)
§ “They’re a well wacky bunch.” Dexter flips a burger at the counter, ‘whacking’ it over his shoulder all the way over to the grill.
§ Vince jumps up from behind the counter, points a red sauce bottle at a Blimpy employee standing in front of the counter, and says “Get your hands up! State your name, rank and number!”
§ Karen sits at the office desk, saying “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.” A visiting bigwig comes in and slams the office door behind him. He glares at Karen, and has a suction-capped arrow stuck to his forehead. Karen laughs.
§ The gang watches a race across the floor between wind-up hamburger toys, all shouting while Vince commentates. (From episode 3.1, High Flier.)
§ We cut back to Karen, now half-laughing, half-crying.
§ Debby stands at the counter, saying “End of story, beginning of nightmare.”
§ TJ, dressed partly as a chicken, struts around the office clucking.
§ Dexter stammers “What do you mean, man?!”
§ Karen, covered in dirt, screams as lightning strikes the litterbin outside Spatz, behind where she is standing. The bin catches fire. (From episode 3.5, The Curse Of Karen.)
§ After receiving some good news from TJ, we hear the staff cheering together, and throwing fries up in the air. TJ smiles.
§ “Spatz, the craziest joint in town, Fridays at 4:40 on Thames.”
§ The final lingering image is of the neon Spatz logo on a black background, with the day, time and Thames logo.
§ After this ad, CITV presenter Tommy Boyd came on and introduced The Dreamstone.
NOTE: I like the way that this ad pitches Spatz as a Thames TV show rather than a Children’s ITV show; this opens it up for older viewers. Wouldn’t you watch Spatz as an adult?
Here is a synopsis of the one episode of Spatz we were lucky enough to find on an old video – Clowning Around, the 9th episode of Series 1:
It is Friday. TJ has just put up a notice offering children’s parties at Spatz. As the group discuss their dates, it transpires that Stanley has a girl in his life... but has never met her.
JO: Have you ever had a girlfriend, Stanley?
DEXTER: Does the Pope have a skateboard?
STANLEY: I don’t know, does he?
Karen arrives and, seeing the party notice, heads up to grill TJ for using his initiative. She is livid when she hears that Head Office loved TJ’s idea, and approved it.
KAREN: This time you have gone too far ... I don’t want hordes of rampaging savages stampeding through my restaurant, thank you very much.
TJ: It’s a kiddies’ party, not a Viking stag night.
The group discover that Stanley’s girl is called Elektra, and that they exchange messages via computer.
A girl called Henny (played by Jade Magri) drags her mother Pippa (played by Clare Byam Shaw) into Spatz and orders a party for the coming Wednesday (4 o’clock).
HENNY: I want ice cream, and I want balloons and a big chocolate birthday cake, and not one of those horrible frozen ones that mother always buys.
PIPPA: [Nervous laugh] Do you have any children of your own?
TJ: [Wide-eyed, nervous laugh] No.
HENNY: You’re LUCKY!
After work, Vince persuades Stanley to ask Elektra out on a date using TJ’s computer. She agrees to meet him for a burger after the party.
VINCE: Stanley, even you must know about the birds and the bees.
STANLEY: [Laughs] Of course I do. I feed them to my snake.
TJ and Karen audition magicians for the party. Next up is Marvin the Magnificent (played by Chris Langham), who is awfully nervous and faltering.
TJ: So you’re...
MARVIN: Marvin the Magnificent! A smile, a song and a trick up my sleeve. [He shakes TJ’s hand and something falls onto the floor.] Well, it was up my sleeve but now it’s rolled under your desk.
At one point, Marvin puts a carrot into TJ’s mouth.
MARVIN: I ... will now whittle this ordinary carrot into a scale model of the Eiffel Tower with this razor-sharp Arabian scimitar, while blindfolded. [TJ is panicked, while Karen smiles. Marvin dons the blindfold, then stumbles around the room...]
TJ: [Removing carrot] I’m over here!
KAREN: PUT THAT BACK IN YOUR MOUTH!
Marvin’s act is a disaster. Karen promptly hires him, in a jealous attempt to screw up TJ’s idea.
In the changing room, the group discuss Stanley’s date. He is nervous, and the others decide to help him with his image.
STANLEY: I get all clumsy with girls. My mouth dries up and my lips stick to my teeth. It’s like eating peanut butter but it’s not as much fun.
Guests are arriving for the party. The birthday girl is annoyed that the magician is late, and collaring ‘Strickland’, threatens to denigrate Spatz if she is let down.
In the changing room, the group put on clown costumes and make-up for the party.
Karen takes a phone call from Marvin, who has had an accident with a sword and is stuck in hospital. As Karen delightedly heads off to tell the children, TJ notices Marvin’s equipment in the office.
As Karen is about to break the news, TJ comes down the stairs, in costume as ‘The Amazing Spatzini’.
The magic show begins, and TJ falters.
HENNY: Strickland! For £50 I want better tricks that this!
The tricks begin to work, and the guests are impressed. The final trick is the Temple of Death, a swords-in-the-box trick, for which TJ picks Karen.
KAREN: Strickland, nothing is going to make me get in that box.
TJ: If you don’t, I’ll phone Head Office and tell them you sabotaged the party.
KAREN: Alright, I’m in the box.
Karen gets in the box.
TJ: Who will be the first to plunge this razor-sharp sword through the box? [All the staff shout out ‘ME!’ and plead with TJ.] I think it had better be me.
The trick is a success; TJ almost leaves Karen in the box! Henny praises TJ for the party.
After the guests have gone, Vince unveils Stanley’s new image for the date, which involves a leather jacket and gelled hair. Then Elektra (played by Zoë Hodges) arrives - she is a schoolgirl!
ELEKTRA: [To Stanley] If I knew you dressed like that, I wouldn’t talk to you on the computer.
I remember some plot details here and there from other episodes. There may be more than one from a single episode. If you have any memories that are not here or are less sketchy versions of the ones below, please let me know and I’ll include them. (I emailed Thames Television but they are not keen to supply any info at the moment, so this page needs your submissions!)
· Debby splits up with her boyfriend Derek, and he comes to Spatz to sort things out. (Vince describes the couple as being “on and off more times than Michael Jackson’s nose.”) In the ‘coming up next’ trailer shown by CITV before How2 (the programme before this Spatz episode), Derek is following Debby around behind the counter, getting on her nerves. Karen collars Derek, telling him that only she is allowed to harass the staff. Lovesick Derek is then seen ‘munching’ flowers at the counter that Debby has refused. Derek, a security guard, wins back Debby’s affections when he helps foil a burglary at Spatz (as two men, who ‘cased the joint’ as customers, come back that night with a ladder to steal the office computer).
· The Curse Of Karen: Karen shouts at an old lady outside Spatz, who puts a curse on her. She has a disastrous day, and is almost struck by lightning.
· ‘The staff are all completely shocked when one morning Karen walks in and is completely nice to everyone! She calls them her ‘angels’ and tells them to keep up the excellent work they are all doing. When TJ asks her why she is in such a good mood, she explains that Louis Frapelli, who is the owner of Spatz, is getting divorced from his wife, and Karen thinks that she is in with a chance of marrying him and becoming the ‘Second Lady of Spatz’. Also in the episode, there is a competition running where all the employees are in with a chance of starring in a promotional poster campaign, and the winner receives £200. The rivalry between the staff to win ends up driving them all apart (there’s a wicked cat fight between Debby and Freddy!) but they make up in the end.’ Thank you very much to Stephen for this much-appreciated information, which describes an episode called The Poster.
· One episode guest-starred Nicholas Parsons, who hosted a ballroom dancing contest between Spatz and Blimpy.
· 400 napkins with ‘Spitz’ on them are accidentally ordered. (This was the first time I saw Spatz.)
· Karen’s Birthday: The gang believe that Karen has had a nose job. So they buy her a birthday card with Pinocchio on the front, and use the word ‘nose’ repeatedly in the message inside (e.g. we nose how you feel).
· After a customer almost attacks one of the staff, they are given self-defence training. (When the martial arts instructor mentions David and Goliath, Stanley mistakes her for being 3000 years old.)
· Spatz is flooded. Thanks to Amanda for remembering about this one. The flood was caused by a gang, one of whose members punctures the water cooler, the episode Extortion.
· One of the gang (possibly Vince) resigns, but is back by the end of the episode. This happened at least once.
· An episode called Sound Of Muzak (first shown 28/02/90): ‘A man complains that he has lost his wallet in the restaurant and Karen is convinced that Vince stole it. She has no evidence of this, but simply doesn’t like him. She ends up sacking him, and then it turns out that it was actually Karen who had taken the wallet! The man gets his wallet back, none the wiser to all the trouble and mayhem he has caused, and Karen is forced to say those two little words “I’m sorry” to Vince. Who, of course, milks this for all its worth!’ Guest cast included Julia Sawalha as Chloe Fairbanks. Many thanks to Stephen for this information. Joseph recalls that during Vince’s absence, Karen hires an inferior worker who hands out too much change.
· I think there was a Halloween episode, where the staff have swapped ghost stories and convince themselves that Spatz is haunted.
· Karen becomes frustrated with the staff’s gloomy attitude towards the customers, so she enforces ‘service with a smile.’ But Karen herself is not a natural smiler; and without the freedom for the gang to act as they feel and challenge rude customers, this only makes things worse, and tempers fray. When Karen catches the staff wearing fake grins, she tears them off one at a time, shouting “Take those things off now!”, just before a brick crashes through the window. Thanks to Joseph for some of these details, of the episode Extortion.
· Working late one night, Karen makes some toast, but falls asleep in the office while the bread is toasting, leading to a fire. We also see TJ’s girlfriend Julie in this episode. Thanks to Joseph for this info.
· ‘TJ lost a bet with the Blimpy’s manager and Spatz was turned into Blimpy’s; but then TJ made a bet – who could eat the most chocolate éclairs – and he won, and Spatz was brought back to its original state.’ Thanks to Joseph for this one, relating to an episode called Takeover.
· The Spatz staff make Christmas crackers, but Stanley forgets to put the bangers in and they have to start again. Thanks to Joseph for this one, from the episode Driving Miss Wesley.
· In the continuing rivalry between Spatz and Blimpy, the Spatz gang kidnap Blimpy employees. (While Spatz staff wear pink uniforms, Blimpy uniforms are green and white.)
Thanks to http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/5144/spatz.html for some of the information and the logo on this website.
Feel free to email any comments!
Special thanks to Amanda, Helen, Christopher and Joe and later guests for their positive remarks, which make this all even more worthwhile. Grant Cathro says: ‘Spatz is still one of my proudest things because we were really trying hard to make a kids’ comedy that didn’t seem like a kids’ comedy, and I think we got kind of close. I’m so glad it’s stuck in the minds of some of its audience.’
All dialogue and sound samples Copyright Thames Television and ITV. This web page is not intended to infringe those copyrights; it’s meant to be an enjoyable tribute to a good programme.