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28 October 2014

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The Kenneth Williams Show

Kenneth Williams

There was something about television that never quite suited Kenneth Williams.

On radio he was a perfect foil for the star in Hancock's Half Hour and a dominant voice on Round the Horne and Beyond Our Ken.

In film he was the most memorable feature (other than Barbara Windsor's cleavage) of the Carry On movies.

Kenneth Williams

Until the Kenneth Williams Show arrived on BBC ONE in 1970, however, his only starring role on the box was hosting "International Cabaret", a rather ramshackle assortment of cabaret acts from around the world.

The Kenneth Williams Show was largely written by Williams's regular writer John Law (who was taken ill late in the writing process, dying before the second programme was recorded) and also starred another Carry On stalwart, Joan Sims.

Unfortunately for Williams the show was far from successful.  Billy Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light Entertainment, had quickly dissociated himself from it, passing the programme on to Roger Ordish to produce.

Kenneth Williams

The show itself was an attempt to mix stand-up with sketch comedy that never managed to gel (despite the fact that writers Peter Vincent and Austin Steele would go on to achieve exactly that combination the following year with Dave Allen At Large).

It launched to a heavy panning from the press and things failed to improve.  Cotton himself described the programme as "disastrous" and - as Williams himself recorded - even the man on the bacon counter in his local supermarket felt moved to tell the star it was a "rotten show".

There was a one-off special for the BBC in 1976 (featuring another Carry On co-star, Lance Percival) but overall the dreadful reception for The Kenneth Williams Show seems to have persuaded its star that the best way to appear on TV was as himself - the role he was made for.

Cast

Kenneth Williams
performer
Joan Sims
performer
Lance Percival
performer
Anna Karen
performer

Crew

Kenneth Williams
writer
John Law
writer
Austin Steele
writer
David Nobbs
writer
Peter Vincent
writer
Derek Collyer
writer
Ian Davidson
writer
Eric Geen
writer
Howard Imber
writer
Spike Mullins
writer
Roger Ordish
producer
Terry Hughes
producer

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