Sunday Night at the London Palladium
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Sunday Night at the London Palladium was a British television variety show produced by ATV for the ITV network, originally running from 1955 to 1967, with a brief revival in 1973 and 1974. The London Palladium is a theatre in London's West End.
The regular hosts of the Palladium show were Tommy Trinder (1955–1958), Bruce Forsyth (1958–1960 and 1961–64), Don Arrol (1960–61), Norman Vaughan (1962–1965, 1974), Jimmy Tarbuck (1965–67) and Jim Dale (1973–74). Other guest comperes were: Hughie Green, Alfred Marks, Robert Morley, Arthur Haynes, Dickie Henderson, Dave Allen, Des O'Connor, Bob Monkhouse and Roger Moore.
The first ever show was compered by Tommy Trinder with Gracie Fields and Guy Mitchell being the night's big guests. The programme was one of ITV's most watched, reaching its biggest audience in January 1960 while Bruce Forsyth was the host, in an edition featuring Cliff Richard and The Shadows, watched by more than 20 million people.
However according to the book Television's Greatest Hits written and researched by Paul Gambaccini and Rod Taylor the biggest viewing audience was 9.7 million in 1964 (although this would have been homes, rather than viewers, as this was the way British television viewing figures were recorded at the time). This was on Sunday 19 April when Bruce Forsyth introduced The Bachelors, Hope and Keen and Frank Ifield with the Pamela Devis Dancers.
After the Tiller girls and the lesser acts in the first part was the game show, Beat the Clock, the format of which was rather like Bruce Forsyth's later hit in The Generation Game. It featured words stuck to a magnetic board and people had to "arrange them into a well known phrase or saying" in 30 seconds as the second hand moved around a large clock face. Other times couples had to perform a trick or stunt, like even changing clothes (previously put on, on top of their ordinary clothes) with each other within a set time.
The second part of the show was were the big stars shone. It featured many top people over the years including Bill Haley rocking around the clock, Chubby Checker who introduced the "new dance" The Twist to the country with a whole stage full of people dancing the Twist and Sammy Davis, Jr. met the Tiller Girls in 1961. Other star guests included: Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Johnnie Ray, Liberace, Petula Clark, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Italian mouse puppet Topo Gigio came back a number of times.
The show always ended using the huge revolving stage where the Tiller Girls, the compere and that nights guests stood on it as it slowly turned around to the familiar end tune of the show.
Perhaps the most famous episode took place during a strike by the British acting union Equity, who refused to allow its performers to appear that week. Exempt from this, Bruce Forsyth and comedian Norman Wisdom performed the entire show themselves, improvising wildly to the delight of the audience.
In 1967, TV mogul Lord Grade axed the show. The reasons for this remain obscure, but he was first to admit that this and axing the soap opera Emergency Ward 10 at the same time, were the two biggest mistakes he made.
During the early 70s revival, which went out live, two episodes were pulled mid-broadcast, due, apparently to a reported bomb scare.
The format was revived in the 1980s as Live From Her Majesty's, Live from the Piccadilly and Live From the Palladium with comedian Jimmy Tarbuck again host. Live from Her Majesty's is mainly remembered as the show on which comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a fatal heart attack, collapsing midway through his act.
A further revival, in 2000, was called Tonight at the London Palladium, fronted by Bruce Forsyth, however this was not a ratings success.
On 29 August 2010, "Gareth Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium" was performed by the staff of the theatre as a one-off commemorative show for the centenary of the Palladium.
Very few episodes of this programme have survived (5 out of original run's 126); the rest were unrecorded, destroyed by Associated TeleVision (a similar fate happened to a large portion of Crossroads) or deteriorated to the point where they were no longer watchable. However, The Beatles' performance has survived and can be seen on The Beatles Anthology and heard on Anthology 1. The surviving shows - including the Wisdom and Forsyth special - were released on DVD in 2010.
- Vahimagi, Tise. British Television: An Illustrated Guide. Oxford. Oxford University Press / British Film Institute. 1994. ISBN 0-19-818336-4.
- Television's Greatest Hits written by Paul Gambaccini and Rod Taylor. By Network Books (BBC Books)