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.

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