The Story Of Light Entertainment. Copyright: Shine.

The Story Of Light Entertainment

BBC Two documentary. 8 episodes (1 series) in 2006. Features Stephen Fry.

The Story Of Light Entertainment

Stephen Fry narrates a series tracing the roots of light entertainment, from variety to Strictly Come Dancing and all points in between

8   (1 series)
Stephen Fry
Andy Humphries
Andy Humphries

From double acts to pop stars via chat shows and comedians, The Story Of Light Entertainment catalogues and analyses the complete gamut of entertainment media in loving and attentive detail.

Right from the very first days of film and television, it was light entertainment - or, more specifically, 'variety' as it was known then - that was central to its success.

Even in the 1950s, despite everyone always saying they only bought a TV set for the Queen's Coronation, it was the variety programmes, games shows and entertainment that really captured the big audiences and ensured the success of TV.

And it has only got bigger and bigger throughout the years. The 1960s saw entertainment become the battleground between the money making commercial channels on ITV and risk taking creatives on the BBC. This intensity resulted in the so-called 'Golden Age' of the 60s and 70s. But, even though Morecambe & Wise, Forsyth, Yarwood, etc, had the massive audiences, by the mid Seventies, the world of variety was dying off.

The politically correct 80s saw a dramatic change in LE - ITV overtook the BBC and began to dominate with brash, vulgar style. At the same time, 'alternative' entertainment really highlighted a growing disillusionment with old school performers. Now 'real' people became the stars. And although a B-list of performers like Little & Large and Cannon & Ball limped on (albeit with average audiences of 13.5m), it was radio stars like Jeremy Beadle, Noel Edmonds, and Chris Tarrant who became the new showbiz elite with their public humiliations and embarrassing pranks with the public.

In recent years, variety has been re-born with a swing back to classic LE formats like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and The Weakest Link as well as talent shows like Popstars, Pop Idol and The X Factor. Even in the new Millennium, it was Strictly Come Dancing that set Saturday nights alight.

Production Details

Production company
Laugh track

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Saturday 22nd July 2006 on BBC Two at 9:05pm
Last new broadcast
Saturday 9th September 2006 on BBC Two at 9:05pm
Length of episodes
90 minutes
Last repeat
Saturday 13th October 2012 at 10:50pm on BBC4

Website links