We don't watch much TV these days because of the abuses visited by the BBC upon the viewing and listening public, but last night we watched a classic piece of television based on a format which has passed the test of time - the variety show.
I used to love variety shows, like the BBC's Seaside Special in the 1970's, which featured musical acts such as ABBA, Mireille Mathieu and Lena Zavaroni, and comic turns such as Little and Large, the Goodies and the Wurzels. Bruce Forsyth, now languishing in the controversy-ridden Strictly Come Dancing, fronted some cracking variety shows, including a run as host of Saturday Night at the London Palladium, during which the Musician's Union was on strike, leading Forsyth and Norman Wisdom to carry a show by themselves in a now-legendary performance. There was also some great stuff from across the pond, like The Andy Williams Show, The Donny and Marie Show and the daddy of them all, The Ed Sullivan Show; I've read that crime stopped in New York during the Beatles' performance on this. Every country and region had them - for instance Scotland's Welcome to the Ceilidh and Thingummyjig, an updated version of The White Heather Club.
For One Night Only was apparently commisioned for three shows, and last night we caught the Christmas special, presented jointly by Tom Jones, and classical musician, broadcaster and presenter Mylene Klass.
Guy Freeman, ITV's Controller of Music and Events, remarked of For One Night Only how good it was to be making a variety show again. And what a night it was - like the best variety shows, there was something for everyone. I put it to Maxima that she was staring rather intently at David O' Mer, a burlesque artist who was performing a unique acrobatic act in a bathtub, and she went red; but it was her turn to have a go at me for perking up a bit when the all-girl classical quartet eScala played Children; and for all the family Il Divo performed La Fuerza Major, their Spanish translation of The Power of Love, recently covered also by another favourite of mine, EJ Norman.
The comics were ones I haven't seen before, which is part of what variety shows are all about: introducing you to new talent in a fun family atmosphere which is far removed from the amphitheatre of reality shows. The first part of Jimeoin's act concentrated hilariously on his eyebrows, while Will Smith played the wall-faced English snob to a T ("there's been a terrible mix up with bookings; I'm here, and the other Will Smith's giving a talk to the Eton Chess Club").
Tom Jones is, of course, a legend, and his new album has been crafted by professional songwriters, in an echo of the Brill Building. He bookended the show with songs, the first from 24 Hours (Give a Little Love) and the last Baby it's Cold Outside with Cerys Matthews, and the multi-talented Myleene obviously enjoying herself on the piano. The comfortable dynamism between him and Klass held the whole thing together, it was everything that a variety show should be, and nobody got abusive messages left on their answerphone. BBC - watch and (re)learn! (And give Brucie a show where he can shine instead of minding monkeys, eh?)