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: 18/03/09 – Following the closure of previous host AOL Hometown last October, I am in the process of re-housing my website. All three Spatz webpages are now up, though some of the images are still to follow. The Spatz sound files are now available in mp3 format, rather than wav – I’d be delighted to hear from anyone with the Spatz theme on their portable mp3 player!
18/08/08 – Some tidying-up on this page, plus a fresh quotation from Lee Pressman at the base of the page. Two additions on the Episode Summaries page: Time And Efficiency, from which there are clips on YouTube, and The Curse Of Karen. Also, if you are a Facebook member, there is ‘Bring Back Spatz’ Facebook group you can join. It has over 100 members, including some names that are closely connected to Spatz.
9/11/06 – I have added links to some additional Spatz pictures. Please check the Images sub-section below.
26/10/06 – I’ve added a mention that Spatz clips are now available on the website YouTube. There is a link further down the page.
2/12/05 – Although this website’s main interest is in Spatz, you can now read a summary of an episode of Mike & Angelo, a series which is sadly underrepresented online. Click here.
25/5/05 – Sorry for the lack of updates. I recently added a new episode summary. I’ve temporarily removed a few pictures from this page. I’ve had contact from Paul Michael this year, which has been great.
17/12/03 – Fifth episode summary added. I’ve had the good fortune to be emailed by Jonathan Copestake (Stanley), and some of what he said has been added. There are also a lot more pictures dotted throughout the Spatz pages!
8/12/03 – The website counter has reached 1000! Thanks to everyone who has engaged with my webpages by visiting and emailing. I’ve added a fourth episode summary so far this month.
24/10/03 – New info from a contemporary magazine article added for various cast members. And… pictures! If they aren’t appearing, I’ll try and sort it out.
5/10/03 – Once again, I’ve been lucky enough to hear from one of the people behind Spatz, co-writer Lee Pressman. I look forward very much to taking on his suggestions and contributions, to add to the website and provide plenty more for Spatz fans to enjoy.
25/08/03 – Added new question and answer, and integrated the Spatz memories with the episode guide. Thanks to Ellis contributing plot details.
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.
Please click here for a page of episode summaries, including plot details and dialogue.
All files in mp3 format.
As far as I know, mine was 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.
Cast Photo 1 (black and white)
Cast Photo 2 (black and white)
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).
Colour pictures (in addition to those displayed on this page):
Spatz International is
a fast food franchise, founded in
It’s a wonderful town.
Running up and down.
From Dollis Hill
It’s around the bend,
Stick a wood on the end,
The Taj Mahal and the pyramids
May look pretty,
But the place I love
Is north of
Has a Broadway to boot,
It’s flippin’ good,
Hooray for Cricklewooooood!!!’)
(To read a summary of an episode of Mike & Angelo, click here.)
Two Canadians, manager
TJ Strickland and European Co-ordinator Karen Hansson – are stationed at the
restaurant, in an upstairs office. Teenage staff members are recruited – in
Getting customers into Spatz involves various publicity schemes, such as celebrity appearances and children’s parties, with a significant problem being posed by ‘the competition’: Blimpy’s burger bars. The local outlet is managed by the nefarious glutton Ivor Willis. Spatz employees come and go. The compact Spatz Rulebook is often wielded by Karen and is supposed to incite fear and reverence, but has little sway in as chaotic a setting as the restaurant!
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)
Grant Cathro says: ‘Karen … was always the best possible fun to write. How fantastic to be so utterly incredibly horrible to absolutely everybody all the time. Maybe it was therapy? Our mean and angry streaks exorcised through K. Hansson, could it be? Our earlier creation, T-Bag, wasn’t so unlike Karen, now I think of it. Maybe Lee and I were born to write lines for women like these. I’ve certainly always been attracted to end-of-the-line characters, but they’ve got to be performed just right: the trick is to bring genuine vulnerability to those devastating lines. As the writer you can hint at that quality in the text, but the success or failure is ultimately down to the actors to somehow play against the lines. How lucky we were with both T-Bag and Karen; imagine how cold and unappealing they might have been!! Really glad we didn’t wimp out and blandify them for the sake of trying to “add warmth”. We trusted Liz Estensen [the first actress to play T-Bag] and Jennifer Calvert and they paid us back gloriously.’
Jennifer Calvert says: ‘Karen is a dreadful woman. She’s ghastly – really, really awful. She may have a good side to her somewhere, but if she does she keeps it very well hidden. She’s got no sense of humour at all and she’s totally ambitious, just a working machine who sees everyone else just as working machines. She doesn’t mingle with people in her personal life because she just sees people as a means to further her career. She’s horrible. I got very worried that her character would start to creep into my life and I’d end up a bit like her.
‘I decided to leave
Paul Michael says: ‘I loved working with Jennifer, daily. She always gave you so much to work with and off. The Gary Lineker episode [Star Attraction] was one of my facorites too as well as the magic one [Clowning Around]. I can’t remember the name of the guy who played the magician but he was very well known. I think it probably took longer to record his scenes than any others because he kept breaking Jennifer and me up on every take.’
Also been in: T-Bag, The Bill, Stargate SG-1, Brookside, Red Dwarf, If… The Oil Runs Out, Holby City
Paul Michael – Thomas Jefferson Strickland, a.k.a. TJ
(North American ‘nice guy’ but under Karen’s thumb. At one point, he is on 80 a day – insults from Karen that is – and grows to love his first one of the morning. He tries to mediate between Karen and the staff without getting too harsh; but can be assertive when he needs to be.)
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.’
I was lucky enough to hear from Paul Michael in early 2005. Like most people who visit this website, he enjoys remembering the laughter-filled days of Spatz, and would love it to return!
Thanks to Ellis for remembering that ‘TJ was a fan of some kids’ show called Rudy Rooster, which seemed to involve him wearing a stupid hat and strutting like a chicken. He also had a train set, which stopped at Strick-land and ended at ‘Not Funny’ Junction!’
Also been in: Alias, Team Knightrider
Vas Blackwood – Dexter Williams
(Cool but with an air of superiority. He styles himself as the Assistant Manager, and hopes to make it a reality by ‘sucking up’ to Karen and generally being selfish.)
Vas Blackwood says: ‘Dex has got ambitions of being a manager - so he can be a real crawler at times. But he’s a bit of an Arthur Daley character too. He’s always got some scam going on. He’s a very kinda guy and he wants to get on, but ultimately he’s a fool to himself. He’s a laugh though.
‘I’ve done a lot of comedy work before like The Lenny Henry Show, and Only Fools And Horses. I reckon I’m a natural to do his part too, ‘cause I worked in a McDonalds when I was 15. It was good un because Michelle Collins, who plays Cindy in Eastenders, worked there too.’
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)
Sue Devaney says: ‘Jo is 17; she’s a northerner who’s landed a job working in Spatz selling burgers. She’s very loud, very cheeky, very boisterous, very naive and totally man mad. In fact she’s just like Sue Devaney, except l gave up men two days ago. I hate ‘em.
‘I’ve played a lot of different roles in
the last couple of years both for children’s and adult telly. I was In
Joe Greco – Vince Powers
(Confident, flirtatious, but with a sensitive side. Often in trouble for not being the Spatz Manual’s biggest fan.)
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 – Debbie Wesley
(Nice, sensible. She is in a stormy relationship with the witless but romantic Derek Pewley.)
Jonathan Copestake – Stanley Rydale
(Slow-witted yet loveable type. Keeps several pets, and has a talent for computers and ballroom dancing.)
Jonathan Copestake says: ‘My memories of Spatz are very fond. It was my first professional job after leaving drama school and I considered myself extremely lucky to work with such a supportive cast and crew. As I remember it, Spatz got funnier and funnier with every new episode and I think it had plenty more life left in it when the last episode was made. Such a shame they didn’t go to at least one more series.
Interesting fact: I was at Clwyd Youth Theatre with Rhys Ifans, so when he guested on Spatz, we had already known each other since our teens. Rhys and I once did a production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, a two-hander, which I consider one my greatest acting achievements.
Keep up the good work with the Spatz site, it’s nice to see it getting the recognition it deserves!’
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, who gets very superstitious; appeared in Series 2 & 3)
Grant Cathro says: ‘It was actually me who suggested Katy Murphy for the part of Freddy. We’d just got the Series Two commission in, and that Friday night I went to see a play on the London Fringe (at The Bush Theatre) where Katy was appearing alongside an old drama school pal of mine, Tom Mannion. (Tom turns up as loopy busker in one of the later episodes [Poetry And Music]). Katy played this spaced-out Glaswegian girl in the play, and something went click in my mind. Perfect for Spatz, I thought. Lee and I both became huge fans of Katy, and cast her in everything we could. She was brilliant in a film we wrote called B&B and a perfect delight in the later series of Mike & Angelo. A little nod in the direction of John Laurie’s wonderful Dad’s Army Scottish undertaker character in Freddy; the bagpipe-accompanied mystic visions always being a hoot to concoct.’
Also been in: Holby City, Casualty, Mike & Angelo, The Bill
Guest artistes include:
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
Pressman and Cathro also wrote: T-Bag, Mike & Angelo. See the episode guide page for more on their partnership.
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 Series 1 Opening Theme
The Series 1 opening sequence is also available to watch on YouTube, courtesy of the user spatz4dvd. The Series 2-3 opening sequence was slightly shorter, as was the 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.
§ Debbie stands at the counter, saying “End of story, beginning of nightmare.”
§ TJ, dressed partly as a rooster, struts around the office clucking (in honour of his TV favourite, Rudy Rooster).
§ Dexter stammers “What do you mean, man?!”
§ Karen, covered in slime, 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?
The Spatz Novel
Yes, there was a novel based on Spatz! Written by Ben Steed, it was published in paperback in 1991. It features adaptations of five Spatz episodes from the first series – Royal Visit, Sound Of Muzak, Karen’s Birthday, Greenpieces, Bye Bye TJ – based around the original dialogue and action. Not as much fun as the TV programme, but it has some interesting background information on Spatz, and offers the chance to appreciate the brilliantly-written dialogue at leisure.
It is now possible to view clips from Spatz on YouTube. I can take no credit for this, but the user spatz4dvd can, so thank you to him. Click here to see the videos he has provided.
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.’ Lee Pressman says: ‘When Grant and I get together we always agree that Spatz was the best series we ever wrote - the scripts, the cast, crew, directors, design - everything came together brilliantly and we’re really proud of what we achieved.’
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.