Sir Bruce Forsyth graced television screens around the country for more than five decades. Here’s a look back at his most memorable shows.
Come And Be Televised in 1939
Sir Bruce’s television debut was on the talent show Come And Be Televised in 1939. The programme’s presenter Jasmine Bligh asked the 11-year-old Sir Bruce about his dancing and who he aspired to be like. He told the show that he wanted to be “a famous dancer like Fred Astaire” so he could buy his mother a fur coat, and then performed a song and dance routine.
Sunday Night At The London Palladium
From 1958, Sir Bruce presented the variety show Sunday Night At The London Palladium and drew in some of its largest audiences. The weekly programme was staple viewing for families across Britain and famously once had no performers because of strike action by an acting union. However, Sir Bruce and the comedian Norman Wisdom, who were both exempt from the strike, kept the show alive for its full 50 minutes by improvising, despite it just being the two of them.
The Generation Game
It was The Generation Game that thrust some of Sir Bruce’s most famous one-liners into the national lexicon. He opened every show with “Nice to see you, to see you…”, to which the audience unfailingly replied “Nice!”. Sir Bruce also popularised “Give us a twirl” on the Generation Game, which he hosted from 1971 to 1977. He used the line to encourage the hostess, Anthea Redfern – whom he went on to marry – to show off her dress. In 1990 he resurrected the show for a four-year stint.
Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night
Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night was not his most successful show, but did enable him to showcase his comic timing, as well as song and dance efforts, thanks to the inclusion of skits on the show. He had moved to ITV and the show went head to head with The Generation Game, which he had handed over to new presenter Larry Grayson. It ran for just one season in 1978 before being axed.
Play Your Cards Right
Play Your Cards Right gave birth to Sir Bruce’s catchphrase “Higher, Lower” and became one of his longest running shows. It ran from 1980 to 1987 and couples had the chance to win cash prizes. He returned for a reboot in 1994 – which introduced the idea of a “Brucie Bonus” – but it was dropped in 1999 when he disappeared from British TV screens. The following year he also left ITV saying he could no longer work with the channel’s then-controller David Liddiment after Play Your Cards Right was axed.
From 1988-90, Sir Bruce was the first host of You Bet! in which celebrities gambled on the outcome of challenges performed by members of the public for charity. He later said he regretted doing so many TV game shows but said he enjoyed the lifestyle it afforded him. He said he would record a series in two weeks before taking off as much time as he wanted, notably to lounge on the beaches of Puerto Rico, and called the shows “money for old rope”.
An Audience With…
Sir Bruce hosted an episode of the long-running ITV show “An Audience With…” in 1997 to celebrate 50 years in showbusiness. He entertained VIP guests and was joined by Keith Allen and Ron Atkinson.
Strictly Come Dancing
After relaunching his career as a guest host of Have I Got News For You in 2003, Sir Bruce became the host of Strictly Come Dancing – a celebrity dance show based on the original BBC series Come Dancing. His old-fashioned appeal and rapport with co-host Tess Daly introduced him to a new generation of fans. He stepped down after nine years as presenter saying that his years of live television had taken their toll. “But I’m not retiring, that’s the last thing in the world I want to do. This isn’t Brucie walking into the sunset,” he said.