Monday, June 5

Nice to see you

David Davies finds no room for Les Dennis in his list of top 10 all time light entertainment hosts

It all started innocently enough. Who was the best light entertainment host ever? I thought to myself as I watched Deal Or No Deal. It seemed Noel was the ultimate, never to be beaten. Then other contenders came to me, and then more, and then I brought it to the workplace and before I knew it I was gathered around a table at lunch vociferously fighting my corner for the person I thought should win. I lost. However, in the spirit of democracy I have left the list as agreed with my colleagues. So, a big thank you to Dave, Emma, Gareth, Josh and Michelle for helping to compile this list, and if you don't like it, blame one of them instead. Here, then, are the 10 greatest light entertainment hosts of all-time.

10. Chris Tarrant
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire revolutionised the quiz show format. Gone were the bright colours and synthesised music, in came classical opera, more cowbell and the sudden, very serious business of playing for Big Money. Sitting in the presenter's seat was Chris Tarrant, a man so rum he could enjoy non-alcoholic tiramisu. Yes, sometimes he drags it on a bit, sometimes he says 'is that your final answer' one too many times, and the poor schmuck sitting opposite goes away with that most humiliating of sums: £1000. But without Tarrant, Millionaire wouldn't be half as good as it is, and countless families would still be talking to each other ('I told you it was B'; 'Yes, we know Dad'). Throw in Tiswas, the original show-for-kids-but-made-for-adults, and he's a shoe-in for number 10.

9. Jeremy Beadle
Watch out, Beadle's about... with a withered hand. Shot exclusively in close-up, Jeremy Beadle was the second hand car salesman who made it big. Struck dumb by the roundness of his head, audiences would watch as he reversed white vans off the edge of a pier, pretended aliens had landed in a small midland village, and did at least one set up involving baked beans, every series. Many questions were left unanswered by the show's demise: were Chas & Dave really singing the theme tune? How could anyone fail to recognise Jeremy Beadle with his moon-shaped head? By the time we'd thought of these, Beadle was in his stride with You've Been Framed, and the fate of 2006's early evening TV was sealed. Like seeing an old photo of yourself with a bad haircut, we remember Beadle by cringeing affectionately.

8. Terry Wogan
Wogan is such a legend he finds time to appear on this list, even though he's better on the radio. The bewigged one makes Eurovision worth watching, and takes a moment to address Children In Need. Cementing his legendary status, he hosted Blankety Blank, the only show to beat Bullseye in the crap prize giving stakes. With his long drumstick microphone, he commanded the screen with a hairdo so wide he beeped whenever he walked backwards. Like the uncle you wish you had, he was welcome in my Nana's living room, and that's all the approval he needs to make this countdown.

7. Matthew Kelly
Before that thing what happened a while back, Matthew Kelly was the squeakiest cleaniest bloke on the box, cleaner even than the guy from Brushstrokes who does the Flash adverts. Still, this is about career, not personal life, and Kelly had two of the biggest shows of the 90s. First up was You Bet!, which was in fact presented by two others, one being Darren Day, the other appearing elsewhere on the list. But who remembers them? Kelly dominated the show, like a jolly green giant without the green bit, watching someone trying to balance one egg on top of another using a JCB. Then there was Stars In Their Eyes, now officially an institution. We only realised how good he was when Cat Deeley took over. How I miss his verbiage, he was like someone with Tourette's who doesn't know any swear words.

6. Cilla Black
Right, let's get the teeth out of the way first. Nope, they're too big to move! Arf arf. Seriously though, those are some offensive gnashers. Still, it didn't stop Cilla from a Matthew Kelly-beating one-two combo of Surprise Surprise and Blind Date. Cilla was a bona fide TV dame. When she asked Graham for a rundown of the Blind Date contestants, we trusted Graham because we knew Cilla trusted him, even though we never saw his face and he might well have been that bald guy from the Goonies. Surprise Surprise was actually a load of arse, but we watched because Cilla was on there. Most of us even tuned in for The Moment Of Truth. We'll skip that one because this list is about the good stuff.

5. Ant & Dec
PJ and Duncan already have a CV that puts most of the others on the list to shame. From the top: SM:TV, Pop Idol, Saturday Night Takeaway, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, Gameshow Marathon, and now Soccer Aid. Three things stop them from making the Top 3 instead of the Top 5. Firstly, Ant's forehead is way too big - you could park a car on it and it distracts viewers with its fluorescent shine. Second, they haven't been around long enough for us to know whether any of their shows will be remembered in the same way we remember the others on this list. Finally, and crucially, there are two of them, which means they have to be twice as good as everyone else. Unfair? I'll see you in court.

4. Michael Barrymore
If this list was a Top 10 of musicians, Barrymore would be Michael Jackson: a big freak who was very, very good at what he did. Jackson had sha'mon, Barrymore had alwight. His career isn't all that impressive, with Strike It Lucky and My Kind Of People being the biggest things he did, but it was his sheer charisma and our belief that he was actually a good guy that gets him to fourth place. Now that we know his kind of people lead to big police-related problems, that striking it lucky may not imply winning prizes on a game show, and that he found a few hotspots of his own, he might slide over time. I bet he can't fit that many puns into one sentence either.

3. Noel Edmonds
This is where we enter true legendary territory. Noel's House Party is, bar none, the greatest saturday night entertainment show of all time. Sure, it flagged towards the end, but in its prime we really did love it. There was Mr. Blobby... no I won't go there. It's true, Noel has a massive frickin head, and his hairstyle comes to a point, and he wears the kind of shirts blind nomads go for, but that's why we love him. He's the ultimate dad on TV. Telly Addicts, Swap Shop and his recent comeback with Deal Or No Deal get him to number 3. All hail Noel, for he knows things we shall never know. Like where he gets those shirts from. Take the letter 'r' away and you might have an answer.

2. Bruce Forsyth
If you've been strong and haven't scrolled to see who was in the top spot already, you may be surprised to see uber-chinned Brucie in the silver medal position. For many he is numero uno, and he only just lost out in the group vote. Unfortunately it seems no amount of sandbox dancing wearing a fez and knee-length socks can save him from his fate. Just look at his track record: Sunday Night At The London Palladium, The Price Is Right, Play Your Cards Right, Strictly Come Dancing and, yes, The Generation Game. He also has a monopoly on the best TV catchphrases of all time: "Nice to see you, to see you nice"; "You get nothing for a pair รณ not in this game"; "Good game, good game"; "Didn't they do well?"; "What¥s on the board, Miss Ford?" Oh, and remember I said someone else had presented You Bet! before Matthew Kelly? Bruce knew a good thing when he saw it, that's why he's the only person apart from George Best to sleep with two Miss Worlds. Who could hold such a legend off the top spot?

1. Bob Monkhouse
First I'm going to let the shows show you. The Golden Shot, Opportunity Knocks, Celebrity Squares, Bob's Full House, Candid Camera, Wipeout, The $64,000 Question and Family Fortunes. It's often forgotten that Monkhouse is the king of TV quiz shows, the ultimate light entertainment family format. In Family Fortunes, he helmed what is regarded as the best quiz show conceived for television. Having a coco pop stuck to his face could not deter him from his quest to fit over 9 trillion jokes into his welcome. It's true that most of them were misses, and that he lacked the natural all-round charisma of Forsyth, yet he was relentless with his comedy and eventually, with one of those jokes, you would smile. He may not be better at any one thing than anyone else in this list, but he is as good as them. Add to the mix the kind of tan the man from Del Monte would be shamed to death of, a propensity for looking slightly confused, those knowing looks and the kind of warmth you just can't fake, and you have your ultimate light entertainment presenter.

So there you have it. Disagree? I hope so. Drop us a comment with your top 10.

1 comment:

Mark said...

What about Ted Rogers?