TV Pop Diaries

Popular Music on British Television

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NEW FACES

ATV
4th July 1973 (broadcast pilot) - 29th September 1973 - 2nd April 1978

A talent show, and like its Monday night rival Opportunity Knocks, not without controversy. The show had a panel of four showbiz professionals who would comment on each act. Pop maverick Mickie Most, Alan Freeman of Pye Records (owned by ATV), Lonnie Donegan, Tony Hatch (also of Pye Records) among others would give their opinion, however toxic. Tony Hatch in particular relished the Mr Nasty moniker given to him by the tabloids. The pilot show had TV critic Clive James on the panel for the one and only time. Producer Les Cocks had also worked for Pye Records as a manger.

The show would be open to people sixteen years old and above regardless of professional or amateur status. Like Opportunity Knocks the show would on occasion give a second chance to acts who had been professional but had never made it. Many hopefuls complained about the audition process, but for the 1974 series Les Cocks auditioned 2300 acts in February alone, choosing 200 acts for inclusion. There were however, several names who already had work lined up and used the show for much needed TV exposure. "Artistes new to network television" was how the request for talent was worded in the advertisements. However, acts who failed the first time could be allowed back to try again after two years if they hadn't appeared on TV in between.

Each act would be judged on presentation, content and star quality, which would be changed to Entertainment Value in 1975. Like its rival Opportunity Knocks it also found real talent. Comedian and actor Lenny Henry, songwriter, comedian and playwright Victoria Wood, Britain's first popular stand-up woman comedian Marti Caine, and comedian and actor Les Dennis were among those who made a long-lasting and valid career thanks to the show.

For the fourth series beginning late 1975 a viewers' panel was introduced alongside the experts panel. 5000 acts had been auditioned for the series.

There would be a winner each week, but initially there were no prizes as such, the exposure to agents and the public was considered reward enough according to the producers. However the chance of six weeks' work in Bailey's Nightspot clubs was added in 1974, while the overall winner was given the the opportunity to play at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to the 1975 series.

The show was moved from prime time Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon at the beginning of 1978 which was the first sign of an upcoming P45.

The show never very popular and according to an article in The Stage "New Faces has consistently appeared in the bottom half of the network league tables."

New Faces was brought back to ITV screens in the 1990s, this time hosted by previous winner Marti Caine, but the show was just as unpopular this time around.

Among the pop talent discovered were Showaddywaddy, Sweet Sensation (on Pye Records), Patti Boulaye, Sheer Elegance (on Pye Records) and session singer Max Bacon.