Friday, 25 March 2016
361 Bruce Forsyth's Big Night
First viewed : 7 October 1978
The biggest TV news of 1978 was undoubtedly ITV's poaching of one of the BBC's biggest stars Bruce Forsyth. It turned into one of the great TV disasters , a prime example of hubris over-riding good judgement.
Bruce Forsyth's Big Night was announced with much fanfare. He got himself a new toupee and dyed his moustache and sideburns to match and appeared on the cover of TV Times "bringing an exciting new look to Saturdays". Bruce was given the whole evening from 6.55 pm onwards with even returning new series of Mind Your Language and The Professionals brought into his big tent. Bruce would hob-nob with international guest stars , bounce off regular comedians including the execrable Cannon and Ball and run game show features like Beat The Goalie and Teletennis ( a TV version of the legendary Pong video game ). Bruce was given way too much head, with the 50 year old entertainer allowed to revive old shows from his youth like Charlie Drake's The Worker and radio favourite The Glums
It didn't hang together at all . The Beeb acted very calmly , appointed Larry Grayson to take his place on The Generation Game , scheduled that and the new series of ratings winner All Creatures Great And Small against BFBN and caned him. Audiences stuck with the show not the man. I think we checked out the early part of the first episode - I remember Chelsea veteran Peter Bonetti doing Beat The Goalie - then turned over for the adventures of Seigfried , Tristan and co and never returned.
ITV were not slow to realise their mistake. First they abandoned the umbrella concept, turning it into a straight 90 minute variety show then scrapped it altogether after Christmas. Some of the elements were recycled as standalone shows. Bruce himself was given a shite game show Play Your Cards Right which was a ratings winner but the failure of Big Night clung to him for the next decade.
The show has a little footnote in pop history for hosting the last UK TV appearance on Chistmas Eve of an unhealthy-looking Karen Carpenter performing Please Mr Postman and making excuses for Richard's absence - he was about to go into rehab for his Quaaludes addiction.