Light Entertainment

At one time Light Entertainment followed the example of the music-hall. The act was the staple ingredient. But BBC Television developed its own forms of comedy. Now more and more shows are based on a single personality; it is around their particular talent that the show is moulded. It is Light Entertainment’s task to provide all types of humour, from slapstick to satire; but it has developed far beyond the variety-stage conception of entertainment. Now there are serials to be done; ‘spectaculars’ to produce; and new artists to be groomed to find those elusive laughs in the audience.

Shirley Eaton, Terry Scott (with script in hand) and Bill Maynard
Bill Maynard and Terry Scott are examples of the new age in Light Entertainment. They were newcomers who were given a chance on the television screen; and they took it – with the help of Miss Shirley Eaton – to become star names.
Actor playing actors and stage staff watch a man in a flat cap mop the floor
The scene: an alleged film set. The man in the flat cap: Dave King. The date: June 1955. By this time Mr. King had his own show. He was another of the young men who were groomed for television comedy. Today he is a top favourite, a man whose shows are a 'must' for millions.

Not all Light Entertainment is jokes and funny faces. Sometimes it comes from the gratification of a wish, as in Ask Pickles. You want to stroke a lion? Or dance with Victor Silvester? Or conduct an orchestra? Then – Ask Pickles.

For the first time millions of people saw the faces behind the radio voices. Dick Bentley was one of the BBC radio personalities who scored success on BBC Television.

A cast of eight cut a cake
In April 1954, the Grove Family took up residence – and their lives have been followed avidly ever since by eleven million viewers. In May 1956, they celebrated their 100th appearance on the screen with a cake surmounted by a replica of the Grove Family house.
The What's My Line panel, Eamonn Andrews and the contestant sit behind desks
The public knew what they liked – and high among their preferences in Light Entertainment were What's My Line? and Arthur Askey's Before your very Eyes. What's My Line? which began on 16 July 1951, was the panel game to beat them all. It introduced the viewer to a wide variety of occupations and celebrities. For the first time many people learned that a man could be employed as a sagger-maker's bottom knocker.

Arthur Askey, seen here with Leslie Mitchell, appeared in two series of Before your very Eyes – in 1952 and 1955.

Do you like your humour sophisticated and a little dry? Then try Terry-Thomas. Viewers did in 1951 with How do you View? – the first real attempt to find a new formula for television comedy. By popular request, Mr. Terry-Thomas returned in January 1956, with Strictly T-T. Between those two series a new face had appeared and a new reputation had been born: both belonged to Benny Hill, the gay spark in a setting of glamour.

…and a galaxy of Stars

Ray Martin
Ted Ray
Charlie Chester
David Nixon

Ray Martin

Ted Ray

Charlie Chester

David Nixon

The Television Toppers, a female dancing group

The Television Toppers

Jill Day sings
Billy Cotton
Yana

Jill Day

Billy Cotton

Yana

Vic Oliver
Petula Clarke

Vic Oliver

Petula Clarke

Jack Payne
Ruby Murray
Max Wall
Harry Green

Jack Payne

Ruby Murray

Max Wall

Harry Green

Alma Cogan sings
Richard Hearne, as Mr Pastry, chews celery

Alma Cogan

Richard Hearne

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