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Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

The Blackpool Show was ITV's summer replacement for a seemingly ailing London Palladium Show, while conveniently doubling up as a replacement for ABC's Blackpool Night Out which had finished the previous year. Broadcast live from the ABC Theatre, Blackpool, eight shows were planned with Tony Hancock presenting the first seven with a Bruce Forsyth special occupying the final spot, while Hancock was expected to make a guest appearance. Despite the potential for problems by hiring such a volatile star Philip Jones, ABC's head of light entertainment exclaimed "We regard Tony as a terrific TV scoop" and to back his belief Hancock was given £1200 per show.


Presented by Tony Hancock (he disliked the word 'compere') he was hired to stand in front of the curtain and provide links between each act with gags, sketches, and the occasional song, for which he had been taking vocal coaching.


The public was getting used to seeing Hancock again. As well as the well-received "go to work on an egg" TV adverts the BBC had been running a collection of his classic TV shows under the banner The Best Of Hancock earlier in the year, which showed the man at his comic peak, rewarding the BBC with better than average ratings. However, the audience couldn't help but notice that this new Hancock on stage at Blackpool had lost a lot of weight and looked not well. Not well at all. He famously didn't appear on show six as he was drunk. He apologised the following week, claiming to be the victim of "a touch of sunstroke or something."


A variety show host was not the kind of thing you would expect from Hancock, so the money must have been an influence. But more importantly though he had made contact with ABC who would provide him with a new, much-needed, comedy series of his own the following year. Talking to the TV Times about his role as a presenter he claimed "It's something new for me. But I like it. It's a challenge. A good regular spot. Something to build up. I don't want The Blackpool Show to be just another variety show. I want to give it an image, a roundness."


For The Blackpool Show Hancock had been assigned Eric Green and John Muir as writers, but it has been suggested that they also acted as babysitters for the star. No one could have known how little time he had left, but he was looked ill and often fluffed his lines. During one of these live shows Hancock actually forgot the name of the acts he was meant to introduce. But given the little existing evidence interaction with his regular guests like John Junkin (as his sidekick Evelyn) seemed to work well.


Despite people's reservations about Hancock the show went straight to the top of the TAMS ratings with 20,000,000 viewers after the first show which featured Matt Monro and American singer Marion Montgomery. Later guests included Kathy Kirby, The Bachelors, Allan Sherman, The Seekers, The Rockin’ Berries and Anita Harris among others.


ABC wisely chose to play it safe with the second season, beginning 25th June 1967 by hiring comedian Dickie Henderson as the host who would introduce Mel Torme, Nancy Wilson, Dusty Springfield, The Shadows, Cilla Black, Frank Sinatra Jr which kind of suggests they were aiming for international sales, rather then just the domestic audience. Henderson was already performing two shows a night in a Blackpool summer season show, so was was more reliable than Hancock who would have to come up from London.


As it was obvious ABC wouldn't be around for much longer it didn't bother with a series in 1968.



THE BLACKPOOL SHOW


ABC

19th June 1966 - 13th August 1967