Its's a Knockout TV Series
The iconic television series It's a Knockout had an illustrious innings. Beginning in the UK in 1966, it transmitted its last show in 2001. In one special programme, it even had members of the British royal family, Princes Andrew and Edward, Princess Anne and Fergie, as team leaders.
Despite its British team character and typically Anglo-saxon slapstick humour, the series was the brainchild of French Premier Charles de Gaulle, who mooted the European version of the series, Jeux San Frontieres, as a way of uniting European nations in friendship and fun. It even provided the inspiration for Peter Gabriel's song Games without Frontiers, a eulogy to the TV phenomenon.
In the UK, the show hosted 3 teams each week, for example Bristol, Bath and Minehead, all hotly competing for the much sought after 'Tip Top Town Trophy'. The programme billed itself as 'an inter-town contest of skill and strength' and the population of Britain collectively tuned in to watch. In its heyday, in the 70s and 80s, the show boasted audiences of up to 16 million.
As the theme tune 'Bean bag' by Herb Alpert and Tijuanna Brass started playing, people knew that they were in for madness, mayhem and a right good laugh. The teams competed against each other in obstacle races and silly versions of games lifted from the Olympics, school sports days and the producer's fertile imagination.
The competitors always had to wear costumes and these were usually enormous. The huge feet and giant bodies and heads made the racers cumbersome and clumsy and hilariously liable to fall over.
There were relay races, massive rubber inflatables and vast quantities of foam and water, for slipping, sliding and generally getting dunked in. Part of the show's appeal was its jolly, colourful, slapstick and custard pie nature, but perhaps the main factor in its success was the eccentric presenter Stuart Hall, whose infectious laugh sent audiences, and himself, into peals of uncontrollable laughter. If teams did well, they could compete for Great Britain in Jeux Sans Frontieres.
With a bigger budget, and an even bigger audience, the show featured ever more outlandish costumes and fancier props. One game featured giant Frankenstein chasing a flower-planting damsel in a mini-dress and the immortal line "just a friendly tap and he's fractured her skull, but never mind". With penguin suits, revolving platforms, plenty of competitors getting utterly soaked and a punchline of "here come the Belgians", it was a runaway Saturday night success.
For the Brits, as with all great British endeavours, it was the taking part that counted. Love it or loathe it, it was ground breaking TV and it epitomised the best of British spirit in a nutshell.
It's a Knockout further information can be found at Its a Knockout Bristol.