Who Killed Saturday Night TV?



Barbara Housemann (narrator)


At It Productions for Channel 4, 10 July 2004


A review of selected highlights from the last 30 years of Saturday night television. The two-hour documentary made an attempt to answer the titular question, but concentrated on lashings of archive footage.

Part 1: Bruce Forsyth The story begins with The Generation Game, which gave the BBC a lock on the rest of the night. Bruce moved to ITV in 1978, and launched the two-hour Bruce Forsyth's Big Night, which featured the debut of The Pyramid Game, and a penalty kick game that's a bit like The Golden Shot. Bruce's replacement at The Generation Game was Larry Grayson. Interviews with Wayne Garvie (now head of BBC Entertainment), Alan Boyd (Generation Game producer 75-80), Paul Smith (Big Night producer), Isla St Clair.

Part 2: After Morecambe and Wise Opportunity Knocks graduates Little and Large put comedy on the BBC, Cannon and Ball responded for ITV. Channel 4's Saturday Live brought alternative comedy to the night. Interviews with the stars themselves, Steve Jackson (Cannon and Ball producer), and Ben Elton (comedian)

Part 3: The Pranksters Noel Edmonds and Jeremy Beadle. 1981's Game for a Laugh gave ITV the lead over the Generation Game, so the BBC responded with The Late Late Breakfast Show. ITV moved Game for a Laugh to Sundays, allowing Noel a free run until tragedy struck. The pranksters moved on with Noel's House Party and Beadle's About. Interviews with Jim Moir (Game for a Laugh producer), Sarah Kennedy, Michael Leggo (Noel's House Party producer), and the stars.

Part 4: Winning Big William G. Stewart introduced The Price is Right to British screens. Blankety Blank and Blind Date were also doing the rounds, then the National Lottery arrived, followed by Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Interviews with William G. Stewart and Paul Smith (Millionaire producer.) Footage from Millionaire's second pilot was shown, the first time it had been aired on terrestrial television.

Part 5: Vote For It From New Faces through Bob Says Opportunity Knocks and Popstars to Pop Idol and Les Dennis appearing on Celebrity Big Brother. There was also Brian Conley's ill-fated Judgement Day programme. Interviews with Les Dennis and Brian Conley.

Part 6: A Conclusion Video recorders, greater disposable income, and more choices of entertainment mean that viewers aren't prisoners of the television schedule any more. Strictly Come Dancing is shown as a recent success. Interviews with Dawn Airey (Sky television) and Michael Jackson (former Channel 4 and BBC2 controller, who said "There is competition between television and life.")

Regular contributors throughout the show included Peter Bazalgette (Endemol UK), Clive James (television critic), Jack and Graham Kibble-White (of Off the Telly), Claudia Rosencrantz (ITV network controller for entertainment), Alan Yentob (BBC1 controller 93-96).

Key moments

Bruce Forsyth's extended rant in defence of his Big Night - "It was if they expected glitter to come out of the set!"

Gotcha! - a 1980 BBC pilot, in which Paul Daniels and Jeremy Beadle play practical jokes on members of the public.

Clive James appearing to compare practical jokers to fascists.

William G. Stewart on The Price is Right - "There was an atmosphere that came through the screen."

Pilot episodes of Millionaire and Blind Date - entitled It's a Hoot, and hosted by Duncan Norville.

Web links

Off the Telly talks with the producers


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