Jump to content

The Good Old Days (British TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Good Old Days
Opening title (8 February 1974)
GenreOld Time Variety, music hall
Presented byDon Gemmell (First 2 shows)
Leonard Sachs
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series30
No. of episodes245
ProducerBarney Colehan
Production locationLeeds City Varieties
Running time45-60 minutes
Original release
NetworkBBC Television Service (1953-64)
BBC1 (1964-83)
Release20 July 1953 (20 July 1953) –
31 December 1983 (31 December 1983)

The Good Old Days is a BBC television light entertainment programme produced by Barney Colehan which ran for 30 years from 20 July 1953 to 31 December 1983.[1]

It was performed at the Leeds City Varieties and recreated an authentic atmosphere of the VictorianEdwardian music hall with songs and sketches of the era performed in the style of the original artistes.[2]

The audience dressed in period costume and joined in the singing, especially "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" which closed the show each week.[2] The show was compered throughout its whole run (except for the first two shows) by Leonard Sachs, who introduced the acts from a desk situated at the side of the stage.[3] In the course of its run it featured about 2,000 performers. Each show was up to an hour long.[4]

The orchestra pit was deliberately visible in front of the main stage. The orchestra leader for many years was Bernard Herrmann (not the American film composer, but a flautist and later conductor with the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra).


Early in 1953 Barney Colehan devised a one-off show entitled "The Story of the Music Hall" presented by Deryck Guyler.[5] The programme proved so popular that it was decided to create a series under the title of "The Good Old Days".[6]

The show was first broadcast on 20 July 1953 and the first two shows were compered by Don Gemmell. Early series of the show were broadcast live.[7] The show included many regulars such as Joan Sterndale-Bennett, Tessie O'Shea, Dudley Stevens, Hattie Jacques, Loraine Hart, Ray Alan, Roy Castle, Roy Hudd, Ken Dodd, Barbara Windsor, Eartha Kitt, Danny La Rue, Hylda Baker, Les Dawson, Larry Grayson, Tommy Steele, Frankie Vaughan, John Inman, Bernard Cribbins and Arthur Askey.[8][3]

Critical to the show, it was not only the performers who were "in character": the entire audience was required to dress in period costume, adding greatly to the atmosphere and allowing shots of the audience to be interspersed with the acts, particularly in the multiple sing-along acts.

The Good Old Days was inspired by the success of the "Ridgeway's Late Joys" at the Players' Theatre Club in London: a private members' club that ran fortnightly programmes of variety acts in London's West End.[9] The club was originally founded by Leonard Sachs and business partner Peter Ridgeway.[10]

Out of 245 episodes, 108 are believed to survive complete in the archives.[11] 63 of the surviving programmes were rebroadcast on BBC Four between December 2015 and February 2018.[12]

On 16 December 1983, Goodbye to the Good Old Days was shown, a documentary celebrating the end of the 30-year run that year; Barry Cryer served as narrator for the documentary.[13] The final show aired on New Year's Eve that year.

The pattern of the performances and compering were reassuring in their regularity, normally ending with the performers of the evening coming back on stage all assembled and singing with the whole audience "Down at the Old Bull and Bush". Whilst the pattern was unwavering, the performers themselves were usually contemporary faces. However, the well-known faces were interspersed with unknown acts if they represented a traditional style: tap-dancing duos; comedy acrobatics etc.


  1. ^ "Good old days just keep going for the music hall show that refuses to die". yorkshirepost.co.uk.
  2. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Good Old Days, The (1953-83)". screenonline.org.uk.
  3. ^ a b "Good Old Days, The". Nostalgiacentral.com. 28 June 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  4. ^ 1001 TV Series You Must See Before You Die, Paul Conron, ISBN 978-1-84403-887-9
  5. ^ Gosling, Kenneth (30 December 1977). "Music-hall story starts on twenty-fifth year". The Times.
  6. ^ The Good Old Days Songbook, BBC publications
  7. ^ "The Good Old Days". 20 July 1953. p. 20 – via BBC Genome.
  8. ^ "The Good Old Days (TV Series 1953–1983) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  9. ^ "About the Players'".
  10. ^ "Fundraising for RLSB: Ridgeway's Latest Joys | RSBC".
  11. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme The Good Old Days". Lostshows.com. Kaleidoscope. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  12. ^ "BBC Four - the Good Old Days, 16/07/1981".
  13. ^ "London". 16 December 1983. p. 66 – via BBC Genome.

External links[edit]