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  • Before I start this review proper I should point out that Saturday night TV was a massive deal in the 1970s especially at the BBC who had a timetable formula along the lines of

    5.30 - DOCTOR WHO

    6.00 - THE GENERATION GAME

    6.50 - A Feature film ( Usually an action adventure )

    8.30 - THE DICK EMERY SHOW

    9.00 - News

    9.15 - MICHAEL PARKINSON

    10.00 - MATCH OF THE DAY

    We're talking of some legendary shows so the BBC rival ITV ( Remember in those days the Brits only had three TV stations - BBC 1 , BBC 2 and ITV ) decided to hit back and capture much of the audience share by producing the light entertainment extravaganza BIG NIGHT . In fact the show was marketed as " BRUCE FORSYTH'S BIG NIGHT " since star of THE GENERATION GAME Bruce Forsyth had been poached off the BBC

    The format was simple , Brucie would start the show with a few gags , a special guest would come on and do a few songs , we'd get a sit-com called THE GLUMS , Brucie would tell a few more gags , they'd be a quiz show , Brucie would tell a few more gags and if I remember correctly there'd be a quiz . Have I mentioned that BIG NIGHT would last for almost three hours ? That was its downfall it would go on for far too long in a very similar vein , there might be different aspects to what was happening on screen but it's still a light entertainment show while over the road the BBC would be showing Tom Baker being attacked by giant condoms , followed by Larry Grayson making a camp fool of himself , followed by some hunky macho movie hero taking on a bunch of international criminals , I mean if you weren't impressed by some of the BBC's Saturday night output you were probably in a coma .

    It was with much embarrassment that ITV cut short its planned run of BIG NIGHT . I think the last edition featured Brucie holding a question and answer session from the audience which revolved around " Why do you think the critics have been so cruel to the show ? " which is rather silly because the answer was staring everyone in the face : For a variety show it lacked variety and was about two hours too long
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Bruce Forsyth's decision to quit 'The Generation Game' at the height of its popularity probably earned him more criticism than anything he had ever done before, including leaving his wife for a younger woman, hostess Anthea Redfern. He rightly felt the show to be getting stale, and wanted to move on before it deteriorated further.

    He was also tired of game-shows, and wanted to return to his first love - performing. London Weekend Television signed him to front 'Bruce Forsyth's Big Night'. Launched to great fanfare, it was a two-hour circus, with Bruce as ringmaster. It had singing, dancing, comedy, games, something for everyone. If you didn't laugh at Charlie Drake's 'The Worker' all you had to do was wait for Steve Jones to bring on his 'Pyramid Game'. If you weren't keen on that, you didn't need to panic because along in a minute would be a spot of disco dancing, or maybe a bit of fun with Russ Abbot ( so popular did Russ prove that a few years later he was given his own show - 'Russ Abbot's Madhouse' ).

    The B.B.C. were naturally worried at the thought of losing one of its biggest stars, so by way of competition assembled a strong line-up that included 'Dr.Who', 'All Creatures Great & Small' and 'The Little & Large Show' ( alright, I know Syd and Eddie were awful, but they were huge in 1978 ). 'The Generation Game' was revamped as 'Larry Grayson's Generation Game' in which the camp comedian co-hosted with Scottish singer/actress Isla St.Clair.

    If Bruce thought his audience would follow him onto the commercial network, he was sadly mistaken. To the amazement of everyone, Larry made a success of 'The Generation Game', while 'Big Night' - after a strong start - began to sink in the ratings.

    Critics, predictably, tore it to shreds. Many branded Bruce a 'traitor' for leaving the B.B.C., some accused his wife Anthea of playing up backstage. Bruce was so hurt he publicly returned two awards given him by 'The Sun', and, in an unusual move for the time, angrily defended the show on air. Yes, it had teething troubles, but was really not that bad. If nothing else, it deserves credit for introducing a new generation to the brilliant comedy writing of Frank Muir and Denis Norden ( Jimmy Edwards, Patricia Brake, and Ian Lavender starred in remakes of 'The Glums' sketches from 'Take It From Here' ).

    L.W.T. spared no expense; Bette Midler closed the first show, Dudley Moore, Elton John and Sammy Davis Jr appeared on later editions.

    'Big Night' was moved to an earlier time slot, then reduced in length to ninety minutes. When all that failed to work, it was dropped completely, a great shame in my view as it was a sparkling gem and miles better than the dross ( yes, I'm talking about you, Ant & Dec! ) we get on Saturday nights now.

    Bruce must have thought his career was over. But within two years he bounced back as the host of 'Play Your Cards Right'.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ShadeGrenade's review is basically correct. As I write this, Sir Bruce Forsyth has just passed on, and newspapers are full of gushing tributes which is ironic because those very papers were behind the derailing of Bruce's most ambitious television project.

    In 1978, Bruce felt 'The Generation Game' to be getting stale, and, indeed, a viewing of the last series will confirm this to be so. Hit shows do not last forever ( Larry Grayson inherited it and brought an altogether different style to the format ). Michael Grade asked Bruce to go to London Weekend Television to front a two-hour Saturday variety spectacular, certainly the biggest British television had produced up to that point. It gave Bruce the chance to return to his first loves - singing and dancing - and boasted big-name stars such as Elton John, Dudley Moore, Karen Carpenter, and Bette Midler ( in her British television debut ). Money was no object.

    But, right from the get-go, the press seemed determined to scupper the enterprise. It portrayed Bruce as a greedy traitor who'd let down his fans by defecting ( they'd forgotten he'd worked for A.T.V. during his 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium' days ) to the commercial network. Particularly hurtful to Bruce were the spiteful attacks on his then-wife, Anthea, who was depicted as a sharp-tongued shrew. Each edition of 'Big Night' was roundly panned, and, when the ratings began to drop after a few weeks ( mainly due to the B.B.C. using old favourites like 'All Creatures Great & Small' and 'Dick Emery' as opposition ), critics scented blood.

    Several of the 'tributes' produced in the wake of Bruce's death have stated that he 'went on air to apologise for Big Night's failure'. This is untrue. Yes, he retaliated on air against the vicious media onslaught, but at no time did he apologise. He had nothing to apologise for. He rightly felt Big Night had been unfairly treated. "The bigger the build-up, the bigger the tear-down. The knives go in.". With a new show, particularly a big-budget one, teething troubles were inevitable. The critics seemed not to appreciate this. As the show progressed, changes were made; the running time was reduced, and new ingredients - including some 'Generation Game'- style play-lets - introduced. But the damage had been done.

    When Bruce said goodnight on the last edition, he was clearly a shaken man. Having been idolised for so long, to suddenly find himself on the receiving end of so much hatred must have come as a dreadful shock. No-one pretends 'Big Night' was perfect, but it was not given a chance to work. Wherever you are, Sir Bruce, thanks for all the entertainment you gave us. Your critics will be forgotten; you, however, will never be.