Crackerjack! (TV series)

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Crackerjack screenshot.jpg
Prizegiving on Crackerjack with Eamonn Andrews c. 1958
GenreChildren's television
Created byJohnny Haddon Downes
Presented byEamonn Andrews (1955–64)
Leslie Crowther (1964–68)
Michael Aspel (1968–74)
Ed Stewart (1975–79)
Stu Francis (1980–84)
Sam Nixon (2020)
Mark Rhodes (2020)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series29
No. of episodes451 (303 missing)[1]
Running time40 minutes
Original networkBBC Television Service
Picture format4:3
Original release14 September 1955 (1955-09-14) –
21 December 1984 (1984-12-21)

Crackerjack! is a British children's television series that aired on the BBC Television Service from 14 September 1955 until 21 December 1984 (except during 1971). The programme title included an exclamation mark.[2]

On 11 February 2019, it was announced that Crackerjack! would return in 2020 with new hosts Sam & Mark, 35 years after it was last aired. The 10-part series will air on CBBC and the BBC iPlayer.[3]


Through its long run it featured Eamonn Andrews, Max Bygraves, Leslie Crowther, Ed "Stewpot" Stewart, Joe Baker, Jack Douglas, Stu Francis, Peter Glaze, Don Maclean, Michael Aspel, Christine Holmes, Jacqueline Clarke, Stuart Sherwin, Little and Large, Jan Hunt, The Krankies, Basil Brush, Geoffrey Durham, Bernie Clifton, Rod McLennan and Ronnie Corbett amongst many others. Among the performers who appeared as singers/dancers, assisting the host with games, were Sally Ann Triplett (Series 26; as a member of the duo Bardo, Sally Ann represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 1982), Leigh Miles (Series 26 & 27; Leigh was also a popular "Hills Angel" in the Benny Hill show), Julie Dorne-Brown (Series 27 & 28; later MTV VJ "Downtown" Julie Brown), Sara Hollamby (Series 28 & 29; now a television news and travel reporter), Ling Tai (Series 29), Petula Clark, Jillian Comber and Pip Hinton.


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

When Eamonn Andrews presented Crackerjack! the show was on alternate Thursdays with, 'Playbox' another children's show also presented by Eamonn Andrews. 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.


The shows were frantic, being broadcast live in front of an audience largely of children, originally at the King's Theatre[4] on Hammersmith Road, used by the BBC as the King's Studio for live and recorded broadcasts until 1963, then at the BBC Television Theatre (now the Shepherds Bush Empire). 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 games was a quiz called "Double or Drop", where each of three contestants 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 awarded or received a third cabbage. While the winner took his or her pick from a basket of toys, every runner-up won a much-envied marbled propelling pencil as a prize,[5] which became so popular that in 1961 Queen Elizabeth was presented with Crackerjack! pencils for Anne and Charles.[2]

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 - one female, one male - could score extra points for the contestant they teamed up with by competing against Francis in a quickfire question tie. A wrong answer or the opponent answering first would lead to Stu Francis or the celebrity guest being covered in gunge. Additionally, the male celebrity and Francis, even if they got a question correct, would usually get gunged regardless as punishment for laughing at their opponent - often due to Francis taking revenge by banging on the set and shouting "Pull It!" to the production team - although female contestants who answered correctly were generally allowed to laugh at Francis and get away with it. The gunge was always either named relating to the celebrity or a random theme with the number of points above. "The points to be won or the penalties to pay".


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". 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 Maclean's place for the final two series with Ed Stewart. The stand-up routine was briefly replaced by that of Little and Large in 1972, when there was a series briefly hosted by Michael Aspel and Stuart Sherwin. 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 content 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 (presenter of the children's radio request programme 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!" (or in the early years "Hooray") loudly.


In the mid to late 1970s 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. 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 progress to the semi-finals it was his first appearance on TV. The first "Young Entertainer" of 1977 was Tim Sweet, a pianist and singer, performing The Albert Hammond/Carole Bayer Sager song "When I Need You". Sweet went on to be musical director for Larry Grayson and ended his career as musical director at the Hotel Burstin in Folkestone performing alongside entertainer Steve Terry. Eventual runner-up in the 1977 series was a 10-year-old female singer/guitarist, Déannè. Signing her first record deal just three years later, she has also continued to work within the music business, and has gone on to work with many top pop artists as both vocalist and songwriter. She also appeared regularly on ITV's Tiswas throughout the early 80's.

Also around this time the series embraced the video game era with contestants playing Pong for prizes.


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, which followed a similar format to his era of Crackerjack! It lasted for two series.


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

Only 148 out of 451 episodes from 29 series of the show survive in the BBC archives. The earliest episode known to exist is no. 12 of series 3 with Eamonn Andrews; of his tenure, Episode 16 of Series 6, Episode 2 of Series 7, Episode 3 of Series 8 and Episodes 1 & 17 of Series 9 also survive. None of the Leslie Crowther episodes are known to exist, and two episodes only (Episodes 12-13 of Series 18) of the Michael Aspel period survive. However, all of the Ed Stewart (Series 19-24) and Stu Francis (Series 25-29) periods remain.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b BBC website
  3. ^ "Crackerjack is coming back with Sam and Mark presenting". BBC News. 11 February 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  4. ^ Built 1902 at 178 Hammersmith Road | Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History Website
  5. ^ imdb

External links[edit]