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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

One of the last tasks Cilla Black's manager Brian Epstein would tackle before his tragic death in August 1967 was to agree terms for Cilla's own primetime BBC1 TV series in the new year.


Cilla's working class personality had proved popular with the public and had made dozens of TV appearances since her debut in September 1963, but only had a couple of specials to her name, Thank Your Lucky Stars Presents Cilla Black in January 1965 and Rediffusion's Cilla at The Savoy in July 1966. Seeing that Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and other star singers had been given their own series it was inevitable that she would be offered a chance to host her own show. After Epstein's death Bernard Lee from NEMS would complete negotiations with the BBC's Bill Cotton Jnr.


The BBC1 shows hosted by singers tended to fall into two camps, Dusty, Sandie and Scott who made sure that the music would be forefront and wouldn't invite potentially incompatible guests, and the Lulu, Cliff camp which would have dancers, comedy sketches and features like the A Song For Europe qualifier. The Cilla show would very definitely fall into the second camp. Talking to Disc before the first show the BBC's Bill Cotton Jr said "I'm sure Cilla will prove she's an all-round entertainer - rather in the style of Gracie Fields." Cilla would do her own warm-up on the show by singing pub songs with the audience for about fifteen minutes.


Paul McCartney wrote her theme tune 'Step Inside Love' which would stay for the rest of the show's tenure, while fellow Beatle Ringo would star in the second show which would increase the show's audience that week by two million to thirteen million. Cliff Richard would perform the six short-listed Eurovision songs during the first series, which leads to Congratulations being chosen. She was never a clothes horse, like some if the more image-conscious hosts, but her wardrobe for the first series were designed for her by John Bates.


Initially announced at The Cilla Black Show, the show would follow pretty much the same course as any variety show before or after, but interviewing members of the public on the street would prove one of the more popular aspects and would later be copied by Esther Rantzen on That's Life in the seventies.


The first series was broadcast on a Tuesday evening at 8.00 pm replacing This Is Petula Clark. Several shows featured Frankie Howerd with sketches written by Eric Sykes and Galton & Simpson.


The second series would be broadcast Wednesday's and would now include a regular spot featuring birthday and anniversary requests, while the third series starting November 1969 sees the show moved back to Tuesday.


1970 would prove awkward for the singer as despite winning the Top Female Personality in The Sun Television Awards 1970 she didn't have a series that year to back it up with. However she did get to host the annual Christmas Night with the Stars extravaganza.


She was back in January 1971 with a new season of shows, this time on a Saturday night and by the time of the next series starting in November the format was perfect. A camera team was sent off to a secret location, a street somewhere in Britain which would then be revealed live on her show with people peeking out of their doorways only to find themselves on telly, pre-dating Noel Edmond's NTV by twenty years. A couple of shows from this season were filmed on location in Berlin and Stockholm. However 1971 would see her last chart hit with Something Tells Me and from then on it was strictly variety.


'Cilla' went missing from the schedules in 1972 finally turning up on the 30th December with one new show, and a new feature where members of the public would realise their unusual ambitions, something that would re-appear later in 1973 with Jim'll Fix It. She also hosted the A Song For Europe qualifiers, again sung by Cliff Richard.


The show returned in January 1974, but her chart career was far behind her and to make things worse the Song For Europe spot would be given to another show. The series would finish on 2nd March 1974, and bar a couple of bank holiday specials it looked like the end.


She made no appearances at all for the BBC in 1975 turning instead to ATV who gave her, perhaps unwisely, a series of six comedy shows 'Cilla's Comedy Six'. The aim was to probably turn one of them into a series at a later date like Ronnie Barker had done, but none of the shows were popular so the idea was dropped and she returned to the BBC the following year.


The first show in February was notable as her live camera crew turned up to surprise a member of the public only to find that they had gone out for the evening. The idea was dropped a few weeks later and the show came to an end 17th April 1976.


Cilla gave comedy acting another go with Cilla's World Of Comedy, but like the previous adventure it was not a success.


For the next few years she would be a guest on other people's shows and appear in TV commercials and it wouldn't be until the mid-eighties that her revival at London Weekend would properly get underway.



CILLA


BBC1
30th January 1968 - 17th April 1976