What goes around, comes around. That old adage could be applied to Network DVD’s unearthing of 10 episodes of Sunday Night at the London Palladium, the variety show which began in 1955 in the same week that ITV was born and survived until the 1970s.
With Tommy Trinder making jokes about the amount of medical dramas on TV and reeling off titles of potential programmes that wouldn’t look out of place on the BBC Three of today, as well as 1960 hosting duties being carried out by a certain Bruce Forsyth, it seems that nothing much has changed in the intervening years.
Presenting the public (around 14 million a week in its heyday) with a selection of acts from around the globe, including Mario Lanza, Trio Rayros, Bobby Darin, Dick Shawn and other names that resonated 40 years ago, Sunday Night was a must-see show, Forsyth and a number of other hosts also taking time out to lead members of the audience in a game of Beat the Clock.
Standout in this collection is one-night-only, never to be repeated double act between Brucie and the late Norman Wisdom in a show from December 1961.
Following an actors union strike and the absence of any guests, Forsyth brought on Norman Wisdom as his sole guest for the next 60 minutes.
What resulted is one of the most entertaining hours of television produced in the UK, a tour-de-force from both men which acts as a fitting tribute to Wisdom as he’s allowed to act, sing, pratfall, play instruments as Bruce gives his all to rise to the challenge of arguably the most versatile performer to ever grace ITV.
Though many episodes are missing from the vaults, this set would appear to be a reasonable sample of what viewers enjoyed each week, a top class concoction modelled on US-style shows which never feels like the Brits are simply aping their Yank counterparts.
Undoubtedly worth investing in for the Wisdom episode alone, which accounts for the fourth star in my ratings for the release, the three discs also come with a number of PDF extras, including production material and a series guide.