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Variety

Series tracing the roots of light entertainment, from variety to Strictly Come Dancing and all points in between. In this episode the focus is on variety shows.

In the past, singers and comedians may have topped bills but it was the 'allied acts' - such as magicians, ventriloquists, tumblers, jugglers, acrobats, paper-tearers and dance acts - that made the shows so memorable.

The sheer variety of what was on offer was mind-blowing and kept alive various skills which had been handed down from generation to generation within circus, music hall and vaudeville families. For new acts, talent shows provided a way into the business with the top prize usually a chance to appear on the bill of the promoter organising the talent show. Later, when radio and television got in on the act, talent shows became a quick route to stardom for a handful of hopefuls with that elusive star quality.

But by the mid 80s, almost all these skills were banished from our screens. However, these professions are coming back with a vengeance. Thanks to David Blaine, the magic act has changed out of all recognition since David Nixon performed his avuncular routines. Even circus is fashionable again thanks to the Cirque du Solei. Talent shows too have resurfaced with programmes like The X-Factor.

Featuring interviews with Paul Daniels, Ray Alan, Simon Cowell, Paul Xenon, Paul Zerdin, Rod Hull's son Toby, The Circus of Horrors, Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck.

1 hour, 30 minutes

Last on

Sat 2 Jun 2012 17:50

Credits

Role Contributor
NarratorStephen Fry
NarratorStephen Fry
Series EditorAnna Gien
DirectorAndy Humphries
DirectorAndy Humphries
ProducerAndy Humphries
ProducerAndy Humphries