The Slammer

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The Slammer
Also known as The Slammer Returns (2013–)
Genre Children's
Starring Ted Robbins
Lee Barnet
Dave Chapman
Ian Kirkby
Melvin Odoom
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 88
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC One (2006–8)
CBBC Channel (2010–)
Picture format 16:9
Original release 22 September 2006 (2006-09-22) – present

The Slammer (also known as The Slammer Returns) is a children's talent show that has been broadcasting on BBC One and CBBC since 22 September 2006.

Set in a fictional prison called HM Slammer, this programme follows a variety show format where “prisoners” (who have been arrested for “showbiz”-related crimes) compete, by performing to an audience, who decide which act should be released.

The show is produced by Steve Ryde, who also produced CBBC's Dick and Dom in da Bungalow and Harry Batt. It was based on an item from Dick and Dom called 'The Strangely Talented': a game in which contestants performed their specialised acts in front of the Bungalow Heads to try to win the title of Strangely Talented Champion.

The supporting cast of Dick and Dom in da Bungalow all appear in The Slammer. They are Dave Chapman, Ian Kirkby, Lee Barnett and Melvin Odoom.

The show returned, after a two-year absence, to CBBC in October 2013, under the new name of 'The Slammer Returns'. Special editions of the show including 'The Slammer by the Sea' will also air during the revived series.


The Slammer is a fictitious prison (where everyone is dressed like it's the 50s) for entertainers who have "committed crimes against show business"; the people are given the chance to earn their freedom by performing to a jury of children in the "Freedom Show".

The opening titles introduce the show's format, showing entertainers' acts going wrong (e.g. a ventriloquist who accidentally throws his puppet off his arm, and tap-dancers who all trip over one another), their incarceration (including synchronised rock-breaking by the pick-axe-armed sequined tap-dancers), "polishing up their act" and performing to an audience of 8-12 year olds. The lyrics describe this process and the titles conclude with the line of released tap-dancers shimmying out of the prison gate. Making three appearances in the opening credits of the first four series is British Illusionist Andrew Van Buren, presenting his version of the Miss Made Girl illusion, a flower production & "featured backstage" behind a piece of falling scenery.

The Slammer is headed by "The Governor" played by comedian Ted Robbins. The Governor always wears a white suit with a golden bow tie, and fulfills his duties by hosting the Freedom Show and occasionally quizzing audience members about their views on the "Performing Prisoners".

Supporting the Governor are prison wardens Mr. Burgess, played by Ian Kirkby, and the Governor's nephew, Jeremy Gimbert played by Lee Barnett. The characters are complete opposites to one another: Mr. Burgess is intelligent, trustworthy and follows procedure and instructions carefully, accompanied by the physical mannerisms of Porridge's Mr Mackay. Gimbert is not the sharpest tool in the box and Mr. Burgess's frustration with his colleague's stupidity is often obvious.

Dave Chapman returns from da Bungalow to play new character Peter Nokio, a long term resident of The Slammer. He is a poor ventriloquist (his mouth moves when the puppet is speaking), having several puppets (including Titch, Alistair and Cheeky Charlie) which he keeps personified at all times, allowing the puppets to make rude comments and often tell the truth when Peter is telling a lie.

Peter's cell-mate Melvin Odoom (played by Melvin Odoom) is a former dancer whose act once went badly wrong in front of "none other than the Queen" at the Royal Variety Performance, resulting in him suffering from seemingly incurable stage-fright.

The show begins with 5–10 minutes of storyline with these characters, often introducing celebrity guests who may play themselves or assume characters. Keith Harris and Orville once starred in a story where a performance had gone so badly that they froze and were taken to the Slammer; the supporting cast managed to revive them and they performed later in the show.

After this, the performances begin. In-between each performance, the Governor and Mr. Burgess ask a few children on their thoughts. Traditionally Mr. Burgess asks a child to sum up the act with one word, before shouting it back to the Governor, addressing him as 'Sah!' ('sir' in a military fashion). This is often found amusing and has led to children frequently combining adjectives such as 'brilliant' and 'fantastic' to make words like 'brillitastic', to which Mr. Burgess would then shout "Brillitastic, Sah!"

Sometimes the stories are continued into the performance section. Between acts the television audience cut away to very short segments of the stories. This usually is done to create tension on stories where one of the prisoners is being devious (a prisoner is trying to escape while the guards are distracted by the Freedom Show for example).

Four acts perform each episode, and the act who gets the most support through applause and cheering (measured by a clap-o-meter when a vote is taken at the end of the show) is released.

Series 3 introduced a new item called "solitary confinement" It's the part of the show where they keep the bad Performers in Solitary confinement for their bad performances throughout the years and can not be in Solitary, what happens is a Child judge will see the act and when it ends he/she decides thumbs up or thumbs down and if the Performing prisoner do well and get a thumbs up and get a cell upgrade or a Treat. But if they do badly and get a thumb's down and back into Solitary confinement for a Cruel Punishment. In series 5 the being put into a hessian sack or Santa sack in the andcatapulted into outer space on Mr. Burgess's commands. In series 6 the Cruel Punishment has change to the old sack and porridge routine and when the Performing prisoner get covers sloppy ploppy porridge Governor get too carried away ending up Mr. Burgess ether slapping him or shouts at him to calm him down. In series 7, the Cruel Punishment has changed again to the frogs and green slime bucket challenge.


The Slammer is recorded at the Three Mills Studios in East London, by the BBC in high definition. Series 3 and 4 were recorded at Elstree Film Studios in Borehamwood. From series 5, 6 and 7, episodes were recorded at MediaCityUK.

A computer generated image of the outside of the Slammer is used, which features London's Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

Theme Tune[edit]

Like Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, Andy Blythe & Marten Joustra were commissioned to write the theme.


On 25 November 2007 The Slammer won the Children's BAFTA for Best Entertainment Programme, an award that Steve Ryde won back in 2004 for his highly acclaimed and controversial Saturday morning children’s show Dick and Dom in da Bungalow.

Celebrity Guests[edit]

The Slammer has featured many celebrity guests (usually entertainers) who either play themselves or characters in the storyline, perform or do both.

In 2006, the show was reprimanded by television regulator Ofcom after a complaint was received regarding a performance in which a mime artist put a rubber glove over his head, eyes and nose and blew it up. Ofcom formally recorded a breach against the show as it was felt that the sketch, particularly the performers use of the glove, was presented as 'slapstick fun' and could be easily imitated by young children.

Series 1[edit]

Series 2[edit]

Series 3[edit]

Contestants in The Slammer[edit]


Series Start date End date Episodes
22 September 2006
29 December 2006
28 March 2008
20 June 2008
10 September 2010
17 December 2010
16 September 2011
16 December 2011
11 October 2013
20 December 2013
16 May 2014
26 July 2014

External links[edit]