It was the reference to the mural in Stephen Lakely’s blog that got me interested. He very kindly let me publish his article in full below.
God I loved coming back from the pub in the late nineties. We still only had five channels on their telly, most of which shut down after one o'clock. But the telly for those that kept going was bespoke for drinkers and insomniacs.
My housemate Dan preferred to crash straight into bed, often taking his doner kebab with him. But I stayed hooked to our seventeen inch box for hours.
Magazine programmes were the most common. Their cheeky audience of twentysomethings, conversational tone, and esoteric segments milked the fun of boozing for a little while longer.
They covered topics like what meals prisoners on death row have had, and the weirdest Hentai from Japan. One even had a section on what parts of your body you can sell for money, and how much for. Seriously, they really had that.
A show called Use Mouth Better was my favourite. It kicked off at midnight, hosted by a laddy presenter in thick rimmed white glasses, and a blonde woman in her early twenties who wore a sparkly dress and Doctor Martins. There were all the cliches; a live audience, swooping camera shots, a set decked out like a dance floor meets an industrial warehouse. On one redbrick wall was painted a picture of a golden mouse, drinking a pint of lager.
The opening titles consisted of an animation like flamboyant newspaper type. They ended with the cut out words Use Mouth Better and a pair of cartoon lips ‘swallowed’ the viewer.
I got a bit over enthusiastic. Once I ran home so I didn’t miss the first two minutes. I notice how every show was on a fixed pattern, even down to the camera movements, and when they cut away to the crowd.
Things changed when I noticed the girl with the green dreadlocks tied up in coil on her head. She appeared first in episode four, then again in episode five, bobbing around in the background, laughing about cow tipping. There she was again, in episode seven and eight.
After that I kept an eye out for more of them. And they appeared. The man in the leather jacket. The girl in double denim. A skinhead with a pint of beer and yellow teeth. Week after week, not just the same crowd, but the same clothes, the same movement.
I tried to explain this to Dan one Saturday morning, but his eyes were bloodshot and heavy, and said I needed to stop watching so much telly.
When Dan disappeared, and after I had spoken to the police, and his parents, there was a Friday night that followed. I didn’t go the pub of course, but sat at home, and drank some cans of cider. I still had to watch Use Mouth Better.
The new member of the crowd wasn’t Dan, but wore his clothes, and had almost identical hair and eye colour, and a face shape from which from the side was basically the same. He laughed at jokes that did not make sense, applauded when bands I had never heard of played strange songs.
I have looked at a lot of missing people profiles, and joined the dots. None are exact, but I think all the crowd are account for. I have called the channel it was on, and a couple of productions studios as well, but they do not have any records of the show. I don’t remember the presenter’s names, and I can’t find anything about them online.
I just remember the laughing, that mouth swallowing the screen, and that golden mouse, drinking a beer that never ended.