All Star Comedy Carnival – 1972. Part Two

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Christmas With Wogan

I think this could just be the greatest piece of television ever.  Things start sedately enough, with a song from Carl Wayne and Penny Lane (oh, their names rhyme) but after that the fun really begins.

Recorded on the set of Lunchtime with Wogan (all of which sadly seems to have been wiped) you can see that they’ve attempted to get the audience into the Christmas spirit by handing out some party hats.  But since there weren’t enough to go round, the camera tends to focus on the handful of lucky souls who do have one.  The audience shots are fascinating by the way (average age seems to be about eighty).

This segment is a celebration of ATV, so Crossroads naturally features quite heavily.  The sight of Amy Turtle (Ann George) pushing a tea trolley would surely melt even the hardest of hearts whilst Nurses Price and Shaw (Lynda Bellingham and Judy Buxton) from General Hospital also shuffle on.

The fun just keeps on coming as Peggy Mount, Hugh Lloyd, Leslie Crowther and Sylvia Syms appear as two ordinary couples who have been pulled out of the audience to play a game.  The sight of Crowther and Wogan attempting to shovel Mount’s ample form onto a high stool is something that will live long in the memory.

Larry Grayson, resplendent in a black cloak and mask, is brought on as the mystery guest. He has to recite his most famous catchphrases whilst the others attempt to guess his identity.  Simply sublime.

And just when you think things can’t get any better, Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) arrives …..

Easily worth the price of the DVD alone, this is a rare Christmas treat.  Indeed, had the whole show come from the Wogan studio I would have been quite happy (although had this happened no doubt it would have been wiped along with the rest of his shows).

The Wandsworth School Choir are up next, entertaining Jimmy and the studio audience with The Holly and The Ivy.  Then Jimmy gets in the act and joins them for a trot through Do-Re-Me.  Bob Todd, as a drunken milkman, causes a little havoc for Jimmy.

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On The Buses

Like Love Thy NeighbourOn The Buses was one of those programmes which pulled huge contemporary audiences but hasn’t (in critical terms) aged well.  Although unlike Neighbour it does run regularly on ITV3, so clearly somebody still seems to enjoy it.  Like a number of later episodes, this was written by Stephen Lewis (Blakey) and Bob Grant (Jack).  Reg Varney is conspicuous by his absence, but he seems to have left the show after the 1972 run.

If you enjoy broad slapstick and incredible feats of mugging to the camera then this should appeal.  The story – a goose has been left on the bus and they have to stop it escaping – is the cue for everybody, including Olive (Anna Karin) and Mum (Doris Hare), to get covered in soot and flour.  For me, a little of On The Buses goes a very long way, so this is another series that I don’t have in my collection (but I don’t feel I’m missing out).

Jimmy welcomes David Nixon, who restores a touch of class to the programme.  It’s a mystery why Nixon’s existing magic shows aren’t available on DVD as he’s such an affable entertainer.  He does the eggs in the glass party trick which Tommy Cooper also attempted on his 1973 Christmas Show.  Tommy managed to get two out of four eggs in the glasses whilst David went one better – three out of three.

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Sez Lez

Les Dawson is on fine monologue form here.  “I bought my mother-in-law a nice fireside chair which cost me twenty five pounds and the first time I plugged it in, it fused”.  The Syd Lawrence Orchestra and Les’ dancers (Les Girls) also get in on the act.  The band are clearly all professionals as the sight of a group of attractive young ladies leaping about in silk pyjamas doesn’t put them off, not one little bit.

A moustachioed Tony Jacklin has a chat about golf with Jimmy.  They also sing ….

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The Fenn Street Gang

Spun out of Please Sir! after it became painfully obvious that the actors were no longer convincing as schoolchildren (they were well into their twenties by this point) The Fenn Street Gang followed their misadventures, post school.  Never as popular as Please Sir!, possibly due the fact that the characters no longer had a reason to be together and therefore the plotlines had to be split up, it still racked up an impressive thirty eight episodes.  This sketch has a good excuse for a reunion – Christmas dinner – and it passes the time nicely enough, although it’s not exactly an all-out showstopper.

Jimmy leads everybody, including Moria Anderson, Rod Hull & Emu and David Nixon, in a rousing singalong of White Christmas.  A traditional end to a real selection box of a programme – not every chocolate is especially tasty, but luckily there’s only a few hard centres.

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All Star Comedy Carnival – 1972. Part One

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Airing for five years from the late sixties, All Star Comedy Carnival was ITV’s answer to the long-running BBC institution that was Christmas Night With The Stars.  Like its BBC counterpart, not all of All Star Comedy Carnival has survived intact, but at least the complete shows from 1972 and 1973 do exist.

“Mixed bag” is a far summation.  There’s some comedy greats and then there’s Love Thy Neighbour ….

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Love Thy Neighbour

Love Thy Neighbour is one of those programmes that seems to ebb in and out of fashion.  Incredibly popular in the early seventies, by the eighties it had deeply fallen out of favour.  But whilst you shouldn’t expect a re-run on ITV3 any time soon, over the last few decades it’s begun to attract the odd kind comment – arguing that it’s not just a series of (ahem) off-colour jokes, but that there’s also an element of satire – as with Till Death.

Eddie (Jack Smethurst) tells next-door neighbour Barbie (Nina Baden-Semper) that he wishes to give her husband, Bill (Rudolph Walker), the compliments of the season (“peace on earth and goodwill to all men. Even Sambos”).  Eddie is quite happy to extend this goodwill to the wives too, which he demonstrates when he forcibly kisses Barbie under the mistletoe.  That she’s wearing the tiniest pair of hotpants imaginable suggests that the disdain Eddie shows towards Nig Nogs doesn’t extend to the attractive female ones ….

As might be expected, Bill storms in to find his wife being pawed by Eddie and then Eddie’s wife, Joan (Kate Williams), also appears.  What happens next?  Yep, Bill and Joan have a snog under the mistletoe.

To be generous, you could argue that Eddie and Bill are always equally as combative as each other and that, deep down, they have a spark of friendship.  This can be seen when Eddie (after losing the Christmas turkey on his way home from the pub) and Joan are invited round to share Christmas dinner with Bill and Barbie.

But the joke, such as it is, to close this segment is that Bill and Barbie have invited a fair few others – all of them black – which causes Eddie to visibly flinch at the thought of spending time in a room with them.  “I’m dreaming of a black Christmas”.

At the very least Love Thy Neighbour is a fascinating time capsule of the period, but I don’t think I’m going to be shelling out for the boxset anytime soon.

Jimmy Tarbuck, resplendent in an orange jacket, is our ebullient host – on hand to link all the segments. He’s also present to receive visitors, such as Rod Hull and Emu.  Jimmy has the perfect face for some loving attention from Emu and luckily the bird doesn’t let us down.

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Nearest and Dearest

It’s Christmas time and brother and sister Eli and Nellie Pledge (Jimmy Jewell and Hylda Baker) are in a reminiscent mood.  As Nellie mentions that she gets filled with neuralgia (nostalgia) thinking about Christmases past, we’re transported back in time via the age-old trick of making the camera go in and out of focus.  Hylda Baker was a true one-off and therefore sight of her dressed as a young girl is worth the price of admission alone (the reaction of the studio audience makes it plain that they weren’t in on the gag).  Jimmy Jewell, resplendent in a sailor suit, and Madge Hindle (Lily) and Edward Main (Walter) also make for the most ridiculously unconvincing children imaginable.  Which is the point of the skit I guess.

Given that Baker and Jewel reputably loathed the sight of each other, it gives the combative relationship between Nellie and Eli something of an edge.

Once we’ve negotiated this part of the show, Jimmy Tarbuck introduces Moira Anderson singing Silver Bells.  It’s a slightly upmarket sort of song, given that the tone of most of the comedy segments are fairly low brow.  That there’s a full orchestra in the studio suggests that All Star Comedy Carnival had a more than generous budget.

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Father Dear Father

Father Dear Father may have had a fairly thin premise – Patrick Glover (Patrick Cargill) finds his life endlessly complicated thanks to his two grown-up daughters Anna and Karen (Natasha Pyne and Ann Holloway) – but it’s still very agreeable.  Partly this is because of Cargill’s affable performance, although the attractiveness of Pyne and Holloway is another obvious plus (for this viewer at least).  So whilst Cargill bumbles and pratfalls about (here he manages to trip on a roller skate and fall into a lake whilst pulling the most incredible faces throughout), the girls provide an oasis of beauty.  The plot – Patrick’s dog has gone missing – shouldn’t really detain us for too long.

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Thirty Minutes Worth

Harry is the increasingly disgruntled butler of a Lord and Lady.  Fuming because he hasn’t been given Christmas day off, he buttles between each end of their very long dining table, giving them increasingly garbled messages from the other whilst all the time helping himself to their port and brandy.  You’ve got to love a bit of Harry Worth.  His comic stumbles and general air of befuddlement isn’t subtle, but then the All Star Comedy Carnival isn’t really the place to find subtle.  It’s also a bonus to see the peerless William Mervyn playing the Lord.

Now we’ve reached the mid-way point it seems like the right time to take a break.  Tomorrow I’ll be tackling the remainder – Christmas With Wogan, On The Buses, Sez Lez and The Fenn Street Gang whilst various guests – including David Nixon – pop in to join Jimmy.

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