As Phoenix Nights turns 18-years-old, we offer up 18 facts about the show that you may not be aware of...
1. Can Brian walk?
When originally writing the wheelchair-bound character, Peter Kay, Dave Spikey, and Neil Fitzmaurice toyed with the idea that Brian Potter could actually walk. There are several subtle references to this throughout the series, such as in the opening scene of the first episode when, after a quick cutaway, Brian has suddenly transferred from his mobility scooter to his wheelchair.
Another planned scene in Episode 4 would have seen him rushing downstairs to get champagne flutes. The audience would hear him using the stairlift, which would then be followed by the sound of his footsteps running to the kitchen. However, this idea was ditched and the concept of Brian secretly being able to walk was abandoned very early on into the series' production, as they didn't think it really worked.
In That Peter Kay Thing episode In The Club, which is where Phoenix Nights originates from, the very last shot sees Brian stand up from his wheelchair, distressed because his club (The Neptune) is on fire.
2. The club
The series was filmed in various locations around Bolton and Manchester, as well as at Granada studios, but its main home was St. Gregory's Social Club in Farnworth, Bolton. It's a place that Peter used to go, attending Christmas parties there as a child. The club is still running.
3. The real audience
For all the live performances that took place in the club, from Talent Trek to Half A Shilling's controversial folk song, all the audience reactions were genuine.
The crowds were largely made up of club regulars and genuine people who thought it was a real show. They were not given any prior warning about what they were about to watch. The cast and crew would film close-ups of the acts in the daytime, and then would turn the cameras on the real audience in the evening in order to get very natural reactions.
4. Family and friends
Not only was the audience made up of club locals, but Peter and the rest of the cast also offered various roles to many of their family and friends. Peter's wife, Mum, Nana and the driver of his wedding coach all appear throughout the series, to name just a few.
Peter and Paddy's real life barber at the time, Omeran Amirat, also features a couple of times in the series - once cutting Paddy's hair and once being swindled by one of the stallholders at the family fun day.
Toni Baker, who has been involved in a lot of Peter's projects, composed all the music for the series. Peter met Toni through the magazine Loot when he wanted to learn how to play the piano. Toni started giving Peter lessons and the two hit it off, resulting in Peter asking him to help with the music for Phoenix Nights.
Toni also features as a member of controversial folk band Half A Shilling in the first episode.
6. Hidden jokes
Phoenix Nights is crammed full of hidden visual gags for eagle-eyed viewers to notice. Here a just a handful...
Just a mere 30 seconds into the very first episode and accusations are already flying around Bolton!
'Sweet Truck Haul' features several times in the series, a wonderful play on words meaning... well, we're sure you can figure it out.
'Taylor Vision', an excellent name for the man installing the club's new TV.
Beverly's full name is an ode to one of Peter's favourite films.
Peter's Mum, performing live at The Banana Grove!
When Brian visits Blackpool, it seems the locals are still not over the death of Alan Bradley, a Coronation Street character who was killed by a tram.
7. The Village People
In the first episode, Brain tells off two builders for helping Jerry rehearse, when they should be working on the club. The duo then very briefly reappear as an act preforming at Talent Trek in Episode 6. The writers wanted to run a very a subtle sub-plot that the two of them got the bug for performing whilst they were working at The Phoenix.
8. That Peter Kay Thing
As well as originating from it, there are also several references to different episodes of That Peter Kay Thing throughout Phoenix Nights.
For example, 'ARC (Alans ReCovery)' features in Episode 1, which is run by short-tempered Scotsman Alan McClarty in the That Peter Kay Thing pilot, The Services.
Also, in a deleted scene from Series 2, Paddy is seen entering 'Softys Hard Stuff', the adult shop now run by Mr Softy Top from The Ice Cream Man Cometh.
Whilst they were filming the scenes for Episode 1 where the power in the club has gone off, there was actually a funeral wake taking place in the function room next door. The funeral party were making so much noise that the crew had to go and politely ask them if they could be quiet so that they could shoot the scenes with Half A Shilling!
10. The Ford Cortina
A running gag throughout every episode is that there is a Ford Cortina parked up outside the club, which gets more and more vandalised as the series goes on.
11. Wild Bill and Trigger
In Episode 2, Rodney Litchfield plays a character called Wild Bill who brings a real horse (Trigger) into the club for the Wild West night. This was actually based on a real-life act.
Peter had gigged a few times in a venue called Tankersley Manor, and in-between the meals they would always have strange acts come on. The year before Phoenix Nights, Peter did the gig and Gerard Naprous (a professional horse handler) actually rode into the room on a horse. Peter thought this was hilarious so they got Gerard on board and used the idea in the series.
Peter bought many of the costumes for the series from cheap markets in Blackpool. This includes the Princess Diana top worn by Holy Mary, which also featured in the That Peter Kay Thing episode Eyes Down.
13. The Rumburgers
The audition scene at the end of the fifth episode of Series 1 features a very deadpan dance routine from an elderly couple. However, John and Marian Thompson were a real act known as 'The Rumburgers'. They had been performed their comedy Latin American dance routine for 20 years before featuring in Phoenix Nights!
14. The Raid
Many extra scenes were filmed for the series that never saw the light of day. One of which was linked to Episode 6 of the first series, when 'Right Said Frank' were caught breaking into cars in the club car park. Originally, a SWAT team were going to arrive, as Kenny Senior had called the police and told them that an armed raid was going on!
15. The ghost of Young Kenny
As a joke, Toby Foster (Les) deleted all of Justin Moorhouse's (Young Kenny) lines from the second series scripts, before giving them to him. He then tried to convince Justin that he had no lines in the series and that his character was to die and come back as a ghost in the third episode.
16. Corned Beef
Originally when Jerry (Dave Spikey) was singing about Corned Beef in ASDA in the first episode of Series 2, they really wanted it to be to the tune of Call Me by Blondie, but unfortunately the production couldn't get clearance to use the song.
17. Bernard Potter
Peter originally wrote the role of Brian Potter with Bernard Manning in mind. Peter said that, although Bernard was a controversial comedian, he had incredibly timing. However, the casting never happened as Bernard became too ill before Peter could sign him up.
18. The third series?
A lot of news outlets have reported over the years that a complete third series of the show has been written and is ready to go, but this sadly isn't true. The ideas and notes for what may possibly be a third series do exist, but there is nothing set in stone. During Peter Kay: In Conversation, which aired in 2014, Peter told Danny Baker:
"Over the years, I keep writing things down. I wrote something the other week - Brian books The Drifters, Jerry books The Drifters, someone else books The Drifters. There are 12 Drifters in the club, 'cos there is always loads of Drifters, and four of them are in turbans. They are like, 'What are we going to do with all these Drifters?'"
Only time will tell if we ever see any more of Phoenix Nights, but until that day we'd like to wish it a very happy 18th Birthday.
Long live the Phoenix!
Published: Monday 14th January 2019