Les Dawson: An Audience With That Never Was. Les Dawson. Copyright: Rain Media Entertainment / Fresh One Productions
Les Dawson: An Audience With That Never Was

Les Dawson: An Audience With That Never Was

  • TV stand-up / factual
  • ITV
  • 2013
  • 1 episode

Posthumous comedy special starring Les Dawson, appearing by 3D hologram technology 20 years after his death. Stars Bruce Forsyth, Cilla Black, Terry Wogan, Ken Dodd, John Kaye Cooper and more.

Press clippings

'The thought of Les Dawson coming back as a hologram fries my tiny mind,' was probably the weirdest sentence I heard on TV all weekend. It arrived courtesy of Russell Kane, standing in as a rented talking head on Les Dawson - An Audience With That Never Was (ITV).

I had to check that this wasn't one of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror futuristic dramas because there, on the screen, was the hologrammed Dawson cracking gags as if he was still alive - he died 20 years ago at the age of 62 - while the camera kept cutting, in time-honoured Audience style, to chortling minor celebs in the present day. Debbie McGee, Lorraine Chase, you get the drift.

It was deeply odd. Dawson had been two weeks away from filming his Audience show when he died and this was a well-intentioned way of paying tribute to an old-school comedy great.

But the long-shot hologram sequences of Dawson in action felt uneasily like you were watching him cracking jokes at his own funeral. The Q&A was a belter, mind.

Keith Watson, Metro, 3rd June 2013

Britain lost one of its most cherished talents when Les Dawson died of a heart attack in 1993, aged just 62. He had been due to record An Audience with... two weeks later; now, thanks to the wonders of technology, a version of Dawson will at last "present" the show after 20 years.

ITV promises a television first: a "staggeringly realistic" 3D holographic projection of the comic. Friends Bruce Forsyth, Terry Wogan and Ken Dodd recall their memories and, courtesy of Dawson's widow Tracy, there's treasured family-video footage of Dawson with his daughter Charlotte, who was only eight months old when her father died.

Alison Graham, Radio Times, 1st June 2013

We've always assumed that, since entering the kingdom of heaven, Les Dawson and Tupac Shakur have become firm friends. But now they have even more in common than they already did. Tupac famously performed, in hologram form, at the 2012 Coachella Festival.

We suspect that a hologrammatic representation of Les Dawson will never be asked to headline a major music festival. But that doesn't mean that the technology can't be applied to the nation's foremost purveyor of mother-in-law jokes. Les was booked to appear on An Audience With... back in 1993. Sadly, he passed away just weeks before recording.

But that hasn't stopped the wilder creative brains at ITV from coming up with this utterly barmy scheme which will see a Dawson hologram bantering with stars including Bruce Forsyth, Cilla Black and Terry Wogan. We are not making this up. To our intense disappointment, no previews were available. But this surely has every chance of being 2013's strangest hour of television.

Phil Harrison, Time Out, 1st June 2013

ITV's bold new experimental phase continues with what sounds like one of the maddest programmes in the entire history of television. In Les Dawson: An Audience That Never Was, the late, great comedian is reanimated as, it says here, a "staggeringly realistic" 3-D hologram performing in front of a celebrity audience. Preview copies of this remarkable happening were unavailable at the time of writing, but one fears that digital Dawson will be an unnerving creation marred by the uncanny valley effect. But I can't wait to see how this pans out, as it sounds positively avant-garde. And let's face it, we'll all enjoy ourselves immensely if it turns out to be a disastrous folly.

Paul Whitelaw, The Scotsman, 1st June 2013

Les Dawson: An Audience with That Never Was (ITV) was a not-terribly-snappily titled tribute, timed to mark the 20th anniversary of the much-loved comic's death. It told the story of the TV special Dawson was a fortnight away from recording when he died and attempted to recreate it using a 3D projection. The hologram was billed as "staggeringly realistic" and perhaps it was if you were in the same room. On TV, it merely looked like a cut-out image of Dawson wearing an unnaturally bright blue jacket and a low hairline, standing strangely still and occasionally moving jerkily.

Instead this was a glorified clip show. Venerable figures like Bruce Forsyth, Cilla Black and Ken Dodd sat in beige hotel suites, going misty-eyed over their memories. The celebrity audience watching the hologram's performance were noticeably one notch below - more the level of Debbie McGee and Lionel Blair. And those were two of the more familiar faces. Despite the presence of Dawson's widow and daughter, who were visibly moved, this still felt like a macabre cash-in. A tribute to Dawson would have been fine without a shoddy attempt to "bring him back to life".

The show was rescued by Dawson himself, whose wit rang down the decades. He rattled out mother-in-law gags and gurned with that rubbery bulldog face. We heard how he was an accomplished musician and frustrated poet, hence his artfully off-key piano-playing and relish for florid language. Best of all, there were copious clips of his "Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham" routines with Roy Barraclough, the cross-dressed pair gossiping like fishwives and silently mouthing more "delicate" words, before hitching up their ample bosoms. Cissie and Ada really were three-dimensional.

Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 1st June 2013

Can a hologram Les Dawson tell 'em like he used to?

The deceased Dawson - and his gags - are being resurrected for a last show. But a hologram can't compare to the real thing.

Brian Logan, The Guardian, 31st May 2013

Les Dawson hologram to star in An Audience With...

Les Dawson is to posthumously star in a new An Audience With... special thanks to new holographic technology.

British Comedy Guide, 25th February 2013

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