Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Boggen's Advent Calender (Day Ten) - All Star Show Offs

Day Ten and we look at a tradition which ran on children's television for nearly ten years but as such marked the start of Christmas, where as on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, there was always a star guest from another field showing off. But imagine the whole of the BBC Children's Department all showing what they could do in one show, that show was The All Star Record Breakers, usually Record Breakers made facts and figures entertaining, though this once a year opportunity gave Roy Castle to show off what he could really do and effectively his own Christmas Special.

With so many talented people who presented and acted in shows for children on the BBC, All Star Record Breakers was the perfect idea to make a show as spectacular as any the Light Entertainment department could do. Effectively, the two departments of Children's Programmes and Light Entertainment crossing over made for something spectacular.

The series of specials started in 1974 with the likes of the Blue Peter team including John Noakes, Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and Lesley Judd along with Pat Keysell and Tony Hart, Johnny Morris plus Michael Rodd, Julie Stevens, Bernard Cribbins as well as the McWhirters. But the fun did not start to get going until 1977, in the year when the BBC spared nothing to make the programme to more spectacular then ever before. It was the year which produced one of the show's most remembered moments. Roy Castle, one of the best tap dancers that the UK has ever produced did something so iconic that even after the closure of BBC Television Centre that it is still remembered to this day. 

Not only did Roy tape dance his way around the Television Centre, but when he arrived at the centre courtyard where as he was joined by lots of tapping feet from the biggest tap troupe in the world. All in aid for raising money for Action Research For the Crippled Child, but as such to get the fountain to work at the right time in the routine, a little bit of persuasion was needed by the people who operated the fountain. Leading to one member of the All Star Record Breakers crew to sponsor the person who switched on the fountain for doing their sponsored knit. 

Roy Castle Beats Time...

However the 1977 edition is full of jokes and songs, John Noakes getting pied in the face, Roy having to compete with whole cast in singing Catch a Falling Star who add the facts about the interstellar heavenly bodies whilst he is trying to perform. But in edition to Kenneth Williams' joke about the largest saxophone in the world adding that someone would need plenty of puff to blow it and he delivers that he's one of the biggest puffs in the business much to the knowing laughter of the band. 

Though the performance of the story of Hans Christian Anderson brings out the best in all the performers with Peter Purves singing about wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, Roy telling the stories of Hans with Kenneth Williams in full Jackanory mode narrating the story itself, the end result is anything as good as any musical. Though who wouldn't want to see Noel Edmonds dressed as an inch-worm?

But always the BBC wanting to top this, in 1978 to make the show even more like Light Entertainment, they decided to base that year's programme on Music Hall entertainment. This lead to more people who came from an entertainment background, all the Blue Peter presenters of the year were there so Purves, Noakes and Judd were joining by Simon Groom and Christopher Wenner. The programme has a feel of an edition of Crackerjack, but with Brian Cant, Bernie Clifton and Stuart McGugan joining the cast. Here were three people with entertainment experience and versatility, but also people who had experience on working on shows from the Light Ent and comedy departments. 

If its 1978, then Grease is not far away. Maggie Henderson plays the Olivia Newton-John role but who played John Travolta is not known at all. To top last year's Hans Christian Anderson musical, the All Star team put on The Pickwick Papers for the finale. Later on Roy Castle was to star in Pickwick with Harry Secombe on the West End stage, so as good as training for appearing that musical. Adding to the musical performance is the All Star Steel Band, so the likes of John Craven clank along to make beautiful music together. Unfortunately or fortunately, this performance has been lost to the ages.

1979 brings a touch of the surreal, because for all the fun and jollity there is Miss Children's Programmes 1979. You read that right, a beauty contest for female children's presenter. Odd you might think, but it is apparently all a dream. Who's dream, I don't know? Anyway, the special guest judge for this is Valerie Singleton, who apparently won the contest in 1972. So who entered in this year's contest? Tina Heath, kept the Blue Peter end up plus also Lucy Mathen represented Newsround, Carol Leader went through the round window for Play School, Dame Floella Benjamin as she is now was trying to help Play Away walk off with the title, with also including Susan King, Su Ingle, Maggie Philbin, Jan Hunt and Maggie Henderson. So its odds on someone called Maggie could win it, sadly for the ages we do not know who won the prize. But more seemingly a touch of 'It Was Alright in the 70s' there, with the children's department thinking this was suitable viewing for 5 to 16 year olds.

Don't believe me? Then take a look at this!

Ask Aspel, if he wants to come back and host...

Return tomorrow for day eleven and we are nearly halfway through, so its time to launch those Christmas promos!

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