Tuesday, 17 March 2015

116 Crackerjack

First  watched  : Uncertain

I  may  have  caught  this  before  1973  but  I  don't  recall  anyone  before  Don  Maclean ; certainly   when  Little  and  Large,  regulars  on  the  show's   previous  season,   got  their  own  show  at  the  end  of  the  decade,  they  rang  no  bells. When  it  came  back  on  Friday  2nd  Februrary  1973 The  Sweet  were  on  ( along  with  Lieutenant  Pigeon ) so  I  would  certainly  have  wanted  to  watch  it.

Crackerjack  started  out  as  a  fairly  sedate  children's  quiz  show  with  the  odd  comedy  turn  thrown  in   in  1955  hosted  by  the  likes  of  Eamonn  Andrews  and  Leslie  Crowther. In  the  sixties  it  got  progressively  livelier  and  once  Michael  Aspel  took  over  in  1968, comedy  and  music  took  centre  stage  on  the   live  show  though  there  was  still  an  entertaining  quiz  "Double  or  Drop"  where  contestants  had  to  hold  up  the  prizes  they  won, including  cabbages  for  wrong  answers, to  stay  in  the  game.

When  Maclean  joined  the  show  in  1973 he  teamed  up  in  a  double  act  with  the  rotund  Peter  Glaze  who'd  somehow  managed  to  survive  on  the  show  since  1960  despite  an  extremely  limited  range, just  a  one  dimensional  Oliver  Hardy  straight  man  routine. In  1975  they  were  joined  by  the  versatile  comedienne  Jan  Hunt  and  the  host  changed  from  Aspel  to  Radio  One's  Ed  Stewart.

What  I  remember  most  from  the  show  is  the  finale  where  the  cast  would  perform  some  little  playlet  and  intersperse  it  with  less  than  reverent  renditions  of  two  or  three  current  chart  hits , the  more  inappropriate  the  better. The  show  was  produced  by  Robin  Nash  who  also  did  Top  of  the  Pops  and  I  imagine  him  selecting  his  victims  with  some  relish. Andy  Partridge  once  remarked  ( presumably  before  Crash  Test  Dummies  did  The  Ballad  of  Peter  Pumpkinhead  ) that  Peter  Glaze  was  the  only  person  who'd  covered  an  XTC  song  when  they  burst  into  Making  Plans  For  Nigel . My  mum  loved  this  bit  and  would  come  into  the  front  room  to  see  it,  usually  blathering  on  about  how  talented  Jan  was  ( my  mum's  dabble  in  Am  Dram in  the  50s  had  somehow  given  her  the impression  she  was  an  infallible  theatre  critic- Scots  thespian  Iain  Cuthbertson  always  got  it  in  the  neck  whenever  he  appeared ).

I  think  I'd  tuned  out  by  1977  as  I  don't  recall  watching  them  do  any  punk  tunes. It  was  probably  the  right  time  to  quit  as  Maclean  left  in  1978  for  a  career  mainly  in  religious  broadcasting  on  radio . I  last  saw  him  doing  an  outside  broadcast  for  Radio  Two  in  St  Anne's  Square, Manchester   in  1997  with  a  rather  motley  crew  of  guests  although  Deniece  Williams  did  an  impressive  a  cappella  gospel  tune  on  the  spot.  He  was  replaced  by  one-trick  pony  Bernie  Clifton. Hunt , Stewart and  Glaze  all  left  the  following  year. She 's  had  a  surprisingly  low  profile  career  in  theatre  with  occasional  acting  parts  on  TV  and  had  a  small  role  in  the  film  Run For  Your  Wife  in  2012. Stewart  popped  up  occasionally  on  TV  thereafter,  on  things  like  Punchlines,  but  remained  a  radio  stalwart  until  being  "retired"  when  he  turned  65  in  2006  ( though  he's  presented  a  Christmas  edition  of  Junior  Choice  every  year  since ). He  was  supposed  to  have  retired  to  Spain  but  a  recent  newspaper  article  said  he  was  living  in  Surrey. Peter  Glaze  didn't  do  much  after  leaving  the  show  apart  from  helping  Roy  Hudd  stage  a  tribute  to  The  Crazy  Gang  ( for  whom  he'd  been  a  long  term  understudy )  in  1982. He  died  in  1983,  a  year  before  Crackerjack   was  finally  cancelled  after  a  dismal  last  few  years  with  crap  Bolton  comic  Stu  Francis  and  his  beyond-stupid  "crush  a  grape" catchphrase.   

No comments:

Post a Comment