Pot Black



Alan Weeks

David Icke (1980s)

Eamonn Holmes (1991, 1992)

David Vine (1993, 1997)

Hazel Irvine (2005-7)

Dermot O'Leary (Celebrity Pot Black)


Commentators included: Ted Lowe, Willie Thorne


Produced for the BBC by White Rabbit Productions

BBC 2, 23 July 1969 - 1986

BBC 2, 1 May 1981 to 21 July 1983 and 20 - 30 August 1991 (Junior Pot Black)

BBC 1, 1991-3 (Pot Black Timeframe in 1992)

BBC 2, 3-14 March 1997 (Pot Black Seniors)

BBC 1, 2005-7 (annual Grandstand / BBC Sport special)

BBC 2, 2006 (Celebrity Pot Black one-off)


Commissioned in response to David Attenborough's request for something to show off the BBC's snazzy new colour transmission, Pot Black was a series of single-frame snooker games in a knockout format. Of course, back then there wasn't really any such thing as professional snooker, and Pot Black's artificially restricted, made-for-TV format means it just sneaks under the wire here.

Of course, it's largely thanks to Pot Black that within a few years snooker had grown beyond the confines of the gameshow into a hugely popular sport, which ironically was the undoing of the show that started the ball rolling (with backspin and just a hint of side, natch). Out went Pot Black and in came Pot the Question. Which most people reckoned was foul... and a miss.

There was a brief revival in 1991. The Junior version was also revived in 1991 with a tyro Ronnie O'Sullivan winning it. In 1992, it transmogrified into Pot Black Timeframe which saw players running around the tables as - if we recall correctly - they had a limited amount of time, like in chess (an innovation well ahead of its time; in fact, over a decade before the Premier League Snooker tournament introduced a similar timed format). This series was won by Neal Foulds. Allison Fisher, then the top ladies player, also took part. Eammon Holmes hosted all those versions.

In 1993, David Vine hosted the series played at Pebble Mill, with normal snooker instead of Timeframe. Steve Davis won a record 4th title beating Mike Hallett in the final. Steve James had the highest break with 101.

There was also a Seniors Pot Black in 1997 which Joe Johnson won. The tournament was for players over 40, ones who retired or were still playing professionally. David Vine hosted and it was on BBC2 sometime in March 1997 at teatime.

There was a one-day Pot Black Championship played to the same rules as the original in October 2005, which for a while become an annual event. These programmes were shown during Grandstand (or the Saturday afternoon sports programming block, now that Grandstand's bitten the dust) rather than as a series in their own right, but they did play for the original trophy. Which is nice. There was also a one-off celebrity version for Sport Relief 2006, with a snazzy (if rather daft) snooker-as-martial-art title sequence, won by the pairing of Steve Davis and Vernon Kay (over Ronnie O'Sullivan and Bradley Walsh).


Frames were played to the bitter end even if someone was miles ahead, hence they'd always "pot black".

The programme was usually recorded in the week between Christmas and New Year, for broadcast the following summer.


Philip Lewis

Theme music

George Botsford's "Black And White Rag" as recorded by Winifred Atwell in 1952, on a specially de-tuned grand piano. (NB. Not her famous "other piano", which she didn't acquire until later.)


The BBC published countless tie-in books.

Web links

Wikipedia entry


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