Back to the future as variety is spice of life

Stephen Mulhern
Stephen Mulhern

ITV has never been afraid to look to its own past for inspiration – this week alone, viewers can watch revamped versions of Through the Keyhole and Celebrity Squares, as well as the start of a three-part drama charting former Blind Date presenter Cilla Black’s rise to fame.

But the surest sign that the channel’s bosses are in a nostalgic mood is the revival of what was once one of the biggest shows on British telly – Sunday Night at the (London) Palladium.

The variety programme first hit our screens back in 1955, when it was hosted by Tommy Trinder and featured a guest appearance from Gracie Fields.

However, it was arguably in 1958, when Trinder stepped down and a 30-year-old Bruce Forsyth took over as compere, that the series really hit its stride.

When the Beatles performed in October 1963, the Press was so taken aback by the hysterical reception the Fab Four received from fans waiting outside, they had to coin a new word to describe it – ‘Beatlemania’.

The Rolling Stones also made an appearance, although they hung on to their rebellious rock ’ n’ roll credentials by refusing to smile and wave from the show’s famous revolving stage during the finale.

After 12 years at the top of the ratings, Sunday Night at the London Palladium was axed in 1967, but you can’t keep a good format down.

The show briefly returned in 1970s with presenter Jim Dale, and now after a 40-year break – depending on whether or not you think 1980s offerings such as Live From Her Majesty’s and Live From the Palladium were essentially the same programme – it’s making another return.

It seems ITV are confident that 21st-century viewers will enjoy a bit of Sunday night variety just as much as audiences did in the 1950s and 1960s.

ITV’s Commissioning Editor, Entertainment Peter Davey says: “We’ve got some great hosts and fantastic guests booked to play the iconic stage of the London Palladium and we’re excited that Sunday Night At The Palladium will be a fun and unmissable part of our weekend line up.”

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see Rob Brydon, Jack Whitehall, Jimmy Carr and Bradley Walsh on hosting duties, while Neil Diamond, Art Garfunkel and Maroon 5 are among the acts set to provide the music.

On the opening night though, it’s Stephen Mulhern who takes charge, while X Factor winners Little Mix, and singer Alfie Boe take to the stage, along with Alan Davies, speciality act Les Beaux Freres and the amazing quick-change act David & Dania.