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LITTLE BIG TIME

Southern
30th October 1968 - 26th December 1973

A comedy and music series created around the annoyingly frantic Freddie and The Dreamers, or "certain English leaping gentlemen" as Keith Richards once described them.

Alongside the resident group there would be vaudeville acts, comics, magicians and animal acts. Producer Angus Wright wanted to make the show wholly professional, not relying on new or amateur talent, searching up and down the country for the best talent available. Talking to The Stage just before the pilot show Wright said "Speed, novelty and surprise are the ingredients we're looking for. There are an enormous number of talented people who are never seen on television because there aren't enough outlets for this type of entertainment".

A series of thirteen was commissioned after the successful pilot show in March 1968, recorded at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton which held an audience of 500. Wright said before the pilot "By using a theatre of this sort we are hoping to engender the kind of rapport between performers and audience that characterised the heyday of pantomime". It was the nearest ITV would come to the well established format of BBC's Crackerjack, with adults plainly acting silly for the kids, leaving both in hysterics.

The show proved successful and British songwriters Mitch Murray and Peter Callendar wrote a new song for Freddie, named after the show, and released as a single in November 1968.

In February 1970 the new thirteen-part series incorporated a show-within-a-show Oliver in the Overworld, a story which saw Freddie and Oliver, his trusty grandfather clock trapped in a world of other strange, but friendly strangely animate inanimate objects. The songs were written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood who provided the show's international hit Gimme Dat Ding, which Roger Cook and Albert Hammond released as The Pipkins, denying Freddie and Co of a much needed hit.

It was followed up in 1971 with Oliver in the Underworld, but this time Freddie meets less friendly characters, proving a little scary for some of the audience. But here was always Freddie's Joke Hall of Fame.

The show bowed out with a fifty minute special on Boxing Day 1973 and the producers promised the return of some familiar faces.

Little Big Time had a long shelf life, much longer than most people remember. Children loved the series, I loved the series and despite the wiping of all the original shows, about ten minutes of colour footage still exists, probably as a promotional reel for potential export, narrated by DJ Dave Cash.

What started as a vehicle to promote a pop group past their sell by date had in the end become a much loved and much missed relic.