Sunday, 1 July 2012

Tonight Leslie...

Deriving from the European pioneers of entertainment television, Dutch giants Endemol adapted an existing format and in 1984 created Soundmixshow, the forefather of the Saturday night soundalike gameshow that I hold with dear affectionate; it’s Saturday night and it’s Stars in Their Eyes.

Giving mass media exposure (the finals regularly attracted 13 million viewers) to a select few members of the public who before heading through those famous doors would be introduced to the public.

Each of the presenters (Leslie Crowther, Matthew Kelly and Cat Deeley) would ask courteous questions trying to elicit information about their profession, hobbies and mildy embarrassing tales in their life (similarly to the master of this technique Jim Bowen in Bullseye) which may or may not give a hint to who they’re planning to transform into before our very eyes.

This sequence always finished with 6 words that have transferred deep into the public consciousness, a testament to the success and warmth with which the programme (running for 16 years in the UK) was held in with the viewing public. “Tonight (Leslie/Matthew/Cat), I’m going to be…” and the most impersonated stars were Elvis, Cher, Madonna, Cliffy R and Georgey M giving an insight into who would have been gracing the covers had celebrity magazines been invented in the mid nineties.

Heading back to the Netherlands, they introduced televoting for the finals in 1988 for the first time and they generated such an unprecedented quantity of phone calls that the entire Dutch telephone grid was brought down temporarily and their emergency services were out of reach in some parts of the country.

There were a couple of offshoots from the main format, including numerous Celebrity Specials, four Junior series and a Champion of Champions, which was won by Ian Moor as Chris de Burgh (polling over 500,000 votes). The victorious series winners often embarked on joint and solo tours of the classic seaside Butlin’s and Pontins holiday camps to give back and perform live in front of the thousands of folks who had originally voted for them.

Famous doors, a timeless catchphrase, salt of the earth members of the public and a chance for people to vote, Stars in Their Eyes was pure TV alchemy.

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