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Alan Stafford - It's Friday, It's Crackerjack!

Alan Stafford - It's Friday, It's Crackerjack!

Crackerjack (the TV show with the built-in echo) gave us two enduring icons of Children's Television ... one long and thin, one round and plump. No, not Leslie Crowther and Peter Glaze! The Crackerjack pencil and the Double or Drop cabbage.

If you were a child in the late '50s, the '60s, the '70s or early '80s you'll have your own memory of TV's longest-running teatime variety show. Eamonn Andrews piling prizes on the clever-clogs and cloth cabbages on the chumps ... the pompous and perpetually heckled Glaze Lectures ... those slapstick silent movies ... historical finales with anachronistic pop songs ... or Stu Francis splattered with garish gunge.

Alan Stafford has traced the 29-year history of Crackerjack from the very first cabbage to the last crushed grape, recalling the best of the onscreen fun while revealing loads of backstage secrets. All the triumphs and tiffs, the perils and pranks. This Crackerjack celebration is packed with anecdotes from cast and crew - including Michael Aspel, Pip Hinton, Jillian Comber, Christine Holmes, Rod McLennan, Little & Large, Jacqueline Clarke, Don Maclean, Jan Hunt, Bernie Clifton, The Krankies, Stu Francis and many more.

It wasn't always on Fridays, it wasn't always at five to five, but it was - and ever will be - Crackerjack. CRACKERJACK!!!

First published: Monday 17th September 2018

More about the book

Comedy writer Alan Stafford - who has written for the likes of Matt Lucas, Mitchell & Webb, Jimmy Carr and Lee Mack - has turned his attentions to the long-running Friday teatime institution Crackerjack for a new book.

It's Friday, It's Crackerjack! documents the history of the BBC kids' TV show which ran from 1955 to 1984. Alan says: "To this day, every Friday afternoon in workplaces across the land, people are still saying - It's Friday, it's five-to-five and it's Crackerjack! It's come to symbolise the start of the weekend. Time to sneak home early and break open the gin."

The show, which actually began its life on Wednesdays at 5:15pm, was slipped into the schedules shortly before the launch of ITV, a time when any BBC producer with a bright idea would be encouraged to give it a go. It was the first variety show for children - broadcast from the BBC Television Theatre (now the Shepherds Bush Empire) - and launched the TV careers of comics such as Ronnie Corbett, Leslie Crowther, Peter Glaze, Don Maclean, Bernie Clifton and The Krankies.

It also nearly scuppered the career of Little & Large. "Syd and Eddie were two of my favourite interviewees,' says Alan. 'They were really upbeat about what was, for them, a terrible time. The scripts didn't suit them and they were constantly travelling between Crackerjack rehearsals in London and late-night northern club engagements. By the end of the series they were ill and utterly exhausted."

The mainstay of Crackerjack for nearly twenty years was Peter Glaze, the short tubby bespectacled straight man to a succession of long lanky comics. "Everyone has a story about Peter," says Alan. "There may have been the odd quarrel, but the good stories outweigh the bad. Peter frequently struggled with the pop hits they crowbarred into the final sketch, and sometimes had to be nudged to come in on the right beat, but he always gave it his best shot!"

Alan has interviewed virtually every surviving Crackerjack regular for the book, plus some of the backstage talent, and a few who took part in the games as schoolkids.

Book Launch

A selection of Crackerjack stars - including comics Don Maclean, Jan Hunt and Rod McLennan, plus hostesses Jillian Comber, Leigh Miles and Sara Hollamby, joined Alan at St Michael's Centre in Chiswick on Saturday afternoon 15th September 2018, to share anecdotes and sign copies of It's Friday, it's Crackerjack!...

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