Crackerjack

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(Co-hosts: , implies they were krankies between 1980 and 1981, which isn't the case)
 
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Don Maclean (1973-1976)<br>
Don Maclean (1973-1976)<br>
Bernie Clifton (1977-1979)<br>
Bernie Clifton (1977-1979)<br>
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Ian & Janette Tough (The Krankies, 1980-1981)<br>
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Ian & Janette Tough (The Krankies; 1980-1981)<br>
Lenny Henry (1980)<br>
Lenny Henry (1980)<br>
[[Bob Carolgees]] (1982)<br>
[[Bob Carolgees]] (1982)<br>
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Geoffrey Durham (The Great Soprendo, 1982-1984)<br>
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Geoffrey Durham (The Great Soprendo; 1982-1984)<br>
Keith Harris (1983-1984)<br>
Keith Harris (1983-1984)<br>
Basil Brush (1983-1984)
Basil Brush (1983-1984)

Current revision as of 23:38, 5 March 2019

Contents

Host

Eamonn Andrews (1955-64)

Leslie Crowther (1964-8)

Michael Aspel (1968-74)

Ed Stewart (1975-9)

Stu Francis (1980-4)

Co-hosts

Hostesses:

Vivienne Martin (1960-1961)
Pip Hinton (1961-1964)
Jillian Comber (1961-1970)
Valerie Walsh (1965-1966)
Christine Holmes (1966-1969)
Frances Barlow (1969-1970)
Elaine Paige (1972)
Heather Barbour (1972)
Jacqueline Clarke (1973-1974)
Jan Hunt (1975-1979)
Jillianne Foot (1976-1977)
Valerie Mitchell (1978-1979)
Jan Michelle (1980)
Sally-Ann Triplett (1981)
Leigh Miles (1981-1982)
Julie Dorne Brown (1982-1983)
Sara Hollamby (1983-1984)
Ling Tai (1984)

Regular Performers:

Jack Douglas (1955-1957)
Joe Baker (1955-1957)
Eddie Mendoza (1956-1957)
Michael Derbyshire (1957-1958)
Ronnie Corbett (1957-1960)
Eddie Leslie (1958-1959)
Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson (1958-1960)
Raymond Rollett (1959-1960)
Peter Glaze (1960-1979)
Leslie Crowther (1961-1968)
Harold Taylor (1964-1965)
Rod McLennan (1968-1970)
Little & Large (1972)
Stuart Sherwin (1972)
Don Maclean (1973-1976)
Bernie Clifton (1977-1979)
Ian & Janette Tough (The Krankies; 1980-1981)
Lenny Henry (1980)
Bob Carolgees (1982)
Geoffrey Durham (The Great Soprendo; 1982-1984)
Keith Harris (1983-1984)
Basil Brush (1983-1984)

Broadcast

BBC Television Service, 14 September 1955 to 21 December 1984 (451 episodes in 29 series)

Synopsis

A behemoth of children's programming, for nearly three decades Crackerjack pretty much marked the start of the weekend with its mixture of sketches, pop performances and of course its games. Countless different games were played down the years - there were any number of straightforward on-the-buzzer quizzes, alongside other games like the jigsaw-based Jig-Jak and Hangman variant Take A Letter, but the show's signature game was Double Or Drop, devised by original host Eamonn Andrews, in which kids had to answer questions while holding on to an ever-increasing pile of prizes (with cabbages added to the heap for wrong answers and for dropping things - 3 cabbages inevitably meant elimination from the game). The game was dropped after Andrews' departure from the show, but was later briefly revived during the Ed Stewart-era. Win or lose, everyone went home with the coveted "Crackerjack pencil" (later replaced by the "Crackerjack pen").

It's the moment you've been waiting for...

In the Stu Francis era, the final two contestants would both be teamed up with a celebrity, one male and one female, to play first 'Take A Letter', then a gunge-based game, 'Take A Chance'. (The celebs were mostly kids' presenters, sports stars and, from 1983 onwards, 'Breakfast Time' personalities, breakfast television being a new concept at the time). Each celebrity would compete against Francis to answer a question correctly, and whoever failed to do so would be gunged - although Francis and the male celebrity were always gunged anyway - the ladies usually (but not always) got away scot-free. The celebrities brave enough to put themselves through this included Geoff Capes, Floella Benjamin, Emlyn Hughes, Russell Grant, Fern Britton, Sarah Greene, Les Dawson and Suzanne Dando, among many others. The gunge was always given some name relevant either to some random theme or to the celebrities themselves (such as 'Johnny's Junk' for Johnny Ball and 'Black Belt Bilge' for judo-star Neil Adams). Rather bizarrely, the 1982 series quite often featured fairly innocuous 'gunge', such as 'Bath Water', 'Pond Water' and 'Sugar Puffs' for the rounds involving the female celebs, but the 2 subsequent series always used 'deal's gunge. Probably the worst gunge for the celebrities to be threatened with was 'Cement', but luckily for Diana Moran (aka 'Breakfast Time's' 'Green Goddess'), she managed to answer the question correctly and thus avoid said gunge. However, Francis and the boxer Charlie Magri were covered in 'Pigswill' and 'Tractor Oil' respectively on another occasion - both pretty gruesome styles of gunge, it's probably fair to say - and yes, you've guessed it, the gunge that week had a farmyard theme.

A game of Double Or Drop in progress.

Crackerjack finished in 1984; there was a general freshening of children's television, an old-fashioned variety show was less attractive to the new generation. The Television Theatre, where Crackerjack was filmed, was required for the new Wogan chat show. Stu Francis hosted the suspiciously similar Crush a Grape on ITV, and "Double or Drop" was briefly revived on Blue Peter.

To our surprise, we heard in 2019 that Crackerjack was to be revived, hosted by CBBC's top stars Sam and Mark. The new series will appear in CBBC's 2019-20 season.

Catchphrases

Host: It's Friday, it's five to five, and it's Crackerjack.
Studio audience, at the top of their voices: CRACK-KER-JAAAACK!!!

(Stu Francis, before the 'Take A Chance' game): "Let's have a look at the points to be won - or the penalties to pay!"

Francis's main catchphrase (not just on this show) was: "Ooh, I could crush a grape", along with others such as: "Ooh, I could test-drive a Tonka!" "Ooh, I could wrestle an Action Man!" "Ooh, I could duff a daffodil!" "Ooh, I could jump off a doll's house!" and "Ooh, I could rip a tissue!"

Inventor

BBC producer John Downes

Trivia

The famed Crackerjack pencils were only given to children who actually took part in the games, and they were kept under lock and key so nobody else - even the presenters and crew - could have one. One exception was made in 1961 when the Queen visited the set and was given pencils for Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The pencils were abandoned for a short time in the early 1970s but were subsequently reintroduced, and later on there were Crackerjack pens as well. Leslie Crowther once stated in an interview that he was never given a "Crackerjack" pencil, yet people would constantly ask him for one many years after he stopped hosting the show.

Eamonn Andrews originally hosted Double or Drop as a touring show for adults in Ireland, first in cinemas (which in those days got tax breaks if they featured live entertainment as well as films) and then as a warm-up act for Joe Loss and his band, before adapting it for children. In the original version, prize money doubled at each question up to a maximum of one pound, hence the name.

Double Or Drop eventually followed Andrews to ITV, and was played on The Sooty Show in the early 1970s. The game was revived by Blue Peter in 2002. They even played it on Fridays at about 5.15, just like the original.

Lostshows.com tells us that almost every single episode from the Eamonn Andrews, Leslie Crowther and Michael Aspel eras have been wiped from the archives; only 8 sample episodes survived. All of the episodes from the Ed "Stewpot" Stewart and Stu Francis eras still exist in the archives. A rather sad footnote to all this is that Aspel and Francis are the only surviving hosts.

Web links

Wikipedia entry

Pictures


Leslie Crowther & Peter Glaze

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