Friday, 24 April 2015
140 Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game
First watched : September 1973
Come September 1973 and this ratings-winner returned to the Saturday night schedule for its third series. The Generation Game was the Beeb's first big game show having noted ITV's success with low-budget but extremely popular fare such as The Golden Shot. Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton picked 43 year old variety artist Bruce Forsyth and immediately struck gold. For all his success in other shows, the public's love for old Brucie ultimately derives from his stint on this in the same way that Paul Weller's fanbase rests on his time with The Jam. All the catchphrases - "Cuddly toy !" "Didn't he do well ?" "Give us a twirl" etc are part of our national culture.
The Generation concept worked on three levels. The contestants were four couples. The individuals in the pairs were related to each other but a generation apart and much of the fun derived from the older person's ineptitude at skills they needed to master in about five minutes. Secondly it was a genuine family show that kids could enjoy for the uncontrived slapstick while their parents enjoyed Bruce's sharp wit. And thirdly, it was soon noted for its host's interest in inter-generational sex as he copped off with, and later married, blonde eye candy Anthea Redfern who was twenty years his junior. I recall my mum tutting disapprovingly about all that.
My time with the show effectively ended in 1978 when Brucie accepted the filthy lucre and went over to ITV for his ill-fated Big Night venture. Though we didn't follow him over there ( neither did Redfern and they soon divorced ) we didn't stay with Generation Game either. My mum was what would now be described as homophobic and Larry Grayson was anathema to her. Nevertheless Grayson and his relatively cerebral co-host Isla St Clair actually got the show's highest ratings although helped by an ITV strike.
By the turn of the decade the show's grip had started to loosen as ITV found a big Saurday night ratings winner in Game For A Laugh. Grayson , four years older than Forsyth decided it was time to retire in 1982 and after Jimmy Tarbuck declined to take over , it was decided to rest the show. It returned in 1990 with its original host for four years before Jim Davidson took over. His stint lasted until 2002. Since then it has only been revived for one-off specials with celebrity contestants but there are still rumours of yet another comeback.