First viewed : Summer 1985
This influential talent show certainly brightened up tea times for a couple of months in the Countdown slot on Channel Four.
The Gong Show had actually been cancelled in the US five years earlier so we were watching episodes from the late seventies. The format was somewhat similar to New Faces with the acts performing to a three-strong celebrity panel, each one of whom had the ability to bring the act to a close by striking the titular gong after a specified amount of time. The panel were reasonably famous; Jamie Farr from M.A.S.H. seemed to be on a lot and I remember seeing Dionne Warwick, looking very uncomfortable once.
There were occasionally acts who were reasonably talented but they didn't win very much. The point of the show was that most of the acts were absolutely dire, just begging to be gonged. A classic example were Have You Got A Nickel ( pictured above ), two nubile young girls in hot pants whose act consisted of sitting on the floor eating ice lollies suggestively. Amazingly, the panel allowed them to complete their "performance".
The first shows we saw here were presented by a guy called John Barbour who was your bog standard oily US TV host. He left early on and was replaced by the show's creator Chuck Baris who was something else. Leaning back with his eyes closed and the phoniest perma-grin on his face, Chuck took insincerity to a new art form,chiding the panel - "Aww,what did you do that for ?" - with mock horror whenever the gong was struck. I remember watching the end of the Racing that preceded it once and John McCririck gave the show an impromptu trailer -
"Stay tuned for that Gong Show. It's tacky, it's hideous but it's also hilarious. That guy who presents it is the worst human being in the world."
Quite an endorsement when you think about it.
There were a couple of repeat acts who were purely there to feed Chuck. The Unknown Comic was a man with a paper bag on his head who bantered with the host and was occasionally amusing. Gene Gene The Dancing Machine on the other hand was an overweight stage hand who shuffled about amidst a storm of missiles from the audience while Chuck demonstrated Forsyth-esque dancing skills to his backing track.
The show ended here when Richard and Carol returned from their summer holidays . A pilot for a British version hosted by Frankie Howerd died a horrible death that December and it was never seen again. Baris died earlier this year aged 87.