Crackerjack (TV series)

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This article is about the BBC television series. For crackerjack, see Crackerjack (disambiguation).
Crackerjack
Crackerjack screenshot.jpg
Prizegiving on Crackerjack with Eamonn Andrews c1958
Genre Children's
Format Entertainment
Created by John Downes
Presented by Eamonn Andrews (1955–64)
Leslie Crowther (1964–8)
Michael Aspel (1968–74)
Ed Stewart (1975–9)
Stu Francis (1980–4)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 29
No. of episodes 451 (303 missing)[1]
Production
Running time 40 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel BBC Television Service
Picture format 4:3
Original run 14 September 1955 (1955-09-14) – 21 December 1984 (1984-12-21)

Crackerjack was a British children's entertainment that aired on the BBC Television Service from 14 September 1955 until 21 December 1984.

Presenters[edit]

Through its long run it featured Eamonn Andrews, Max Bygraves, Leslie Crowther, Ed "Stewpot" Stewart, Joe Baker, Jack Douglas, The Balloon Man, Stu Francis, Peter Glaze, Don Maclean, Michael Aspel, Jacqueline Clarke, Rosko, Little and Large, Jan Hunt, The Krankies, Basil Brush, Geoffrey Durham, Bernie Clifton, Rod McLennan and Ronnie Corbett amongst many others. Among the women who appeared as singers/dancers, assisting the host with games, were Julie Dorne-Brown (later MTV VJ "Downtown" Julie Brown); Petula Clark; Sally Ann Triplett (who as a member of the duo Bardo represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 1982); Leigh Miles (also a popular "Hills Angel" in the Benny Hill show); Jillian Comber; Pip Hinton; and Sara Hollamby (now a television news and travel reporter).

Introduction[edit]

The show was introduced with the phrase "It's Friday, it's five o'clock. . . It's Crackerjack!" or sometimes with "It's Friday, it's five to five. . . It's Crackerjack!"

When Eammon Andrews presented Crackerjack the show was on a Thursday not a Friday. It moved to a Friday when Leslie Crowther took over presenting the show. Another children's programme, Blue Peter, which was on once a week on Mondays, then went twice weekly filling the Thursday slot vacated by Crackerjack.

Format[edit]

The shows were filmed in front of an audience largely of children, at the BBC Television Theatre (now the Shepherds Bush Empire) and were quite frantic. The format of the programme included competitive games for teams of children, a music spot, a comedy double act, and a finale in which the cast performs a short comic play, adapting popular songs of the day and incorporating them into the action. One of the highlights of the show was a section called Don and Pete, being Don Maclean and Peter Glaze in a silent-comedy-style section which saw the lead actors playing different parts each week, for example fishing, as sweepers, barbers, at a riding school, on a building site, on a farm, at a circus, window cleaners, bellboys, removals, etc.

One of the most memorable games was a quiz called "Double or Drop", where each contestant was given a prize to hold for each question answered correctly, but given a cabbage if they were incorrect. They were out of the game if they dropped any of the items held or received a third cabbage.

In 1982, in a bid to boost flagging ratings, Crackerjack introduced gunge into its games and launched a new game called 'Take a Chance' in which the celebrity guests could score extra points for the contestant they teamed up with. Failure to answer questions correctly would lead to Stu Francis and/or the celebrity guest being covered in gunge.

Catchphrases[edit]

Crackerjack may also have been the originator of the popular English phrase "Don't get your knickers in a twist".[original research?] In the Don and Pete sketches, Peter Glaze, who usually played a pompous or upper-class character, would always get exasperated with his comedy partner Don Maclean's wisecracks or apparent stupidity. Maclean would then give an alliterative reply, such as "Don't get your knickers in a knot" or "Don't get your tights in a twist", the combination of which has passed into popular culture. Peter Glaze often uttered "Doh!" to Don's wisecracks. Peter appeared in the show from 1960, in a double act with later presenter Leslie Crowther. In 1978, Bernie Clifton (and his ostrich) took Don McClean's place for the final two series with Ed Stewart. The stand-up routine was briefly replaced by that of Little and Large in 1974, when there was a series briefly hosted by Radio 1 DJ Emperor Rosko.[citation needed] When Stu Francis took over in 1980, The Krankies provided the stand-up wisecracks. Stu Francis also did a stand-up routine on occasion, using such catchphrases as "Ooh I Could Crush a Grape/Jump Off a Doll's House" etc. Later series had similar stuff with Basil Brush, and magic performed by "The Great Soprendo" (Geoffrey Durham). During the earlier years (1955–63), Ronnie Corbett and Leslie Crowther had separate stand-up routines. Jo Baker and Jack Douglas also had similar roles when the show started, as well as the Balloon Man, making all sorts of things from balloons. Ed Stewart (much used to entertaining the kids on radio's Junior Choice) also used his catchphrase "Byee!" at the end too. Perhaps the most famous catchphrase was "It's Friday, it's five to five and it's Crackerjack" used at the beginning of each show.

It was an accepted unwritten rule that whenever a presenter spoke the word 'Crackerjack', the audience would shout "Crack-er-jack!" loudly. This custom has passed into popular culture.

Talent[edit]

In the mid to late seventies (c.1977) a talent-contest element was added to the show. The strand was called "Crackerjack Young Entertainer of The Year" and featured children from throughout the UK who had successfully passed audition stages, get their shot at stardom on the small screen. Also around this time the series embraced the digital era with contestants playing Pong for prizes. One contestant of note was Don Ward who performed a series of magic tricks. Today he anchors the evening newscasts on KKTV in Colorado Springs. Although Ward did not move into the semi-finals it was his first appearance on TV ever. The first "Young Entertainer" of 1977 was Tim Sweet, a pianist singer performing Leo Sayer's When I Need You. Tim went on to be Musical Director for Larry Grayson and ended his career as Musical Director at Hotel Burstin. He has since retired.

Cancellation[edit]

Crackerjack was cancelled in 1984 at the same time as many other long-running series, in an overhaul of the BBC Children's department. In 1987 Stu Francis hosted Crush a Grape on ITV, a remake of his era of Crackerjack in all but name. It lasted for two series.

Transmissions[edit]

Series Start date End date Episodes
1
14 September 1955
28 March 1956
15
2
12 September 1956
20 March 1957
14
3
9 October 1957
19 March 1958
12
4
10 September 1958
4 March 1959
13
5
1 October 1959
31 March 1960
14
6
29 September 1960
27 April 1961
16
7
19 October 1961
3 May 1962
15
8
13 September 1962
25 April 1963
17
9
26 September 1963
7 May 1964
17
10
9 October 1964
26 March 1965
23
11
1 October 1965
25 March 1966
26
12
7 October 1966
31 March 1967
26
13
6 October 1967
16 February 1968
20
14
13 September 1968
14 March 1969
26
15
26 September 1969
13 February 1970
19
16
7 January 1972
31 March 1972
13
17
2 February 1973
20 April 1973
12
18
4 January 1974
29 March 1974
13
19
3 January 1975
31 March 1975
13
20
24 December 1975
26 March 1976
14
21
7 January 1977
1 April 1977
13
22
6 January 1978
7 April 1978
14
23
29 September 1978
15 December 1978
12
24
28 September 1979
14 December 1979
13
25
26 September 1980
19 December 1980
13
26
2 October 1981
18 December 1981
12
27
22 October 1982
24 December 1982
10
28
30 September 1983
23 December 1983
13
29
28 September 1984
21 December 1984
13

148 out of 451 episodes from 29 series survived in the BBC archives with 140 of them being all of the Ed Stewart (Series 19-24) and Stu Francis (Series 25-29) episodes and 8 of them being some of the Eamonn Andrews (Episode 12 of Series 3, Episode 16 of Series 6, Episode 2 of Series 7, Episode 3 of Series 8 and Episodes 1 & 17 of Series 9) and Michael Aspel (Episodes 12-13 of Series 18) episodes, none of the Leslie Crowther episodes survived.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]