Opportunity Knocks, 1949 – 1990

The original talent show and almost certainly the forerunner to Britain’s Got Talent, many people will not be aware of just how far back this show goes.

Over the years it was responsible for launching the careers of some of the country’s best known artists.

Acts you may remember include:  Freddie Starr and the Delmonts, Su Pollard, Paul Daniels, Darren Day; Pete the Plate Spinning Dog, Los Caracas, later to become Middle of the Road, Mary Hopkin, Bonnie Langford, Les Dawson, Maureen Myers, Barry Cummings, Royston Vasey (later to find fame as Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown), Little and Large, Bobby Crush, Berni Flint, Tony Holland, Millican & Nesbitt, Neil Reid, Peters and Lee, Lena Zavaroni, Frank Carson, Max Boyce, Pam Ayres, Gerry Monroe, Debra Stephenson, Tammy Jones, Champagne, Frank Jennings Syndicate and Tony Monopoly.

Opp Knocks, as it has affectionately become known, was devised by the legendary Hughie Green in 1949.

It started life as a radio show on the BBC Light Program (now Radio 2) running from 18th February to 30th September 1949 .

However the BBC felt the concept was too American for British Audiences and the show was scrapped after just one series.  After being ditched by the BBC the show continued on radio in the 1950’s transferring to Radio Luxemburg.

Opportunity Knocks made it’s television debut in 1956 on ITV.  Produced by Associated Rediffusion, it ran for one series between  20th June 1956 to 29th August.  The series refused to fade away and in 1964 it came back for a second run.  Again on ITV, produced initially by ABC, then Thames Television this time it ran from 11th July 1964 until 20th March 1978.  Hughie Green remained as host for the entire run, he would return once more for a one off in 1979 for  RTÉ.

The show was brought back to life in 1987 by the BBC, this time it was presented by comedian Bob Monkhouse and was re-named Bob Says Opportunity Knocks.  After three series Monkhouse stood down.  A final series of the show was screened by the BBC in 1990, entitled Les Says Opportunity Knocks, presented by former 1970’s show contestant, Les Dawson.

The voting system on the Hughie Green version was postal.  The studio audience would show their appreciation at the end of the show by clapping.  This was measured by a clap-o-meter, but this did not count towards the final result.  A similar system of appreciation in the form of an updated electronic “clap-o-meter-style” on-screen indicator, using stars, was used in the later series.

With Hughie Green’s version postal votes had to be in your own handwriting and must reach the studio by Thursdays.  The votes were counted at the Friday recording of the next week’s show where the result of the postal vote would be announced.  After a Friday recording the show would be broadcast on a Monday night usually around the 7.00pm time slot.

In the updated BBC version, the show became the first British TV show to use telephone voting in order to get a more immediate result, a system still in place today.


After open auditions up and down the country (in those days we didn’t see the auditions on TV) a team of judges would put the best up for the main shows.

Each act would perform once.  At the end of the show there would be a studio audience appreciation guide from the clapometer.  The public were then asked to vote for their favourite.  In the early days the vote was postal and we got to know the winner the next week.  In the later BBC version telephone voting gave a more immediate result.

Before performing each act would have a little chat with the host, in Hughie Green’s day this was done standing, Bob Monkhouse and Les Dawson interviewed contestants seated, chat show fashion.












Hosted By

Hughie Green, 1949 – 1978
Bob Monkhouse, 1987 – 1989
Les Dawson, 1990



BBC Light Programme (1949)
Radio Luxembourg (1950s)
ITV (1956–1978)
BBC1 (1987–1990) 

Produced By:

BBC Radio – 1949
Associated-Rediffusion (1956)
ABC (1964–1968)
Thames (1968–1978)
BBC – 1987 -1990

Original Run: 1949 – 1990 (see intro for full dates)



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14 Responses

    • John gaylor

      Looking for a act 1971 came 2nd to Neil Reid.it was a comedy act name of grump and Gerry or grump and Dave.Grump passed away and I would like to try and find this clip.

  1. I'm looking for a clip of a contestant called Les simmons I only know that it was in the 70's he was a comedian and he came second to a dog. can anyone help?

    looking for footage of contestant called Les Simmons he was a comedian and came second to a dog believed to be in the 70’s

  2. susan

    Does anyone know if it is possible to view the entire episode of Opportunity Knocks from 5th may 1968 (Mary Hopkin won) as my father also appeared as a contestant along with Mary? We only ever recorded the sound on a reel-to-reel tape recorder so it would be amazing if we could view the episode and see my father on screen. If so, can you point me in the right direction.
    Many thanks.

    • admin

      that year there were two now defunct production companies involved with opp knocks: ABC Weekend Television and Thames. Also many shows of that era have been wiped and no longer exist in the archives. Try ITV to see if they can point you in the right direction. their email address viewerservices@itv.com
      Good luck do let us know how you get on

  3. Karen cooper

    I’m looking for an episode that my father was in with the band Ken Barrie Four and I believe they came 2nd – their introduction was my fathers pet chimpanzee Jenny at the time. I watched but was only about 6 – it would have been 67 or 68

  4. Emma Oner

    Please help!!! My father appeared on opportunity knocks in 1976 with my uncle Chuck Layburn. My dad lifted Hughie green up in the air on this particular show and my uncle was knocked out by Bernie Flint. Do you have this recording? It would mean the world to see it. Thank you in advance.

  5. Steve Tozer

    Hi ! A question ; In 1990 I was in a band called “Miami” and we passed two auditions at the BBC and were told that we would be on the show ,we waited for the next letter, it came and told us that we would be on the first show in 1991. Then poor Les passed away and the show was cancelled. We made two tapes singing live to a 16 track recording of an original song written by the whole band after which the whole room including the producer gave us a standing ovation twice. Is it possible that they are stored somewhere or in someones possession as some others from that year have been put on you-tube . I am 66 now and the old band are all on Facebook and would dearly love to see one of our performances. Any hope? Thankyou.

  6. S hand

    Hi my voting card was picked out I voted for champagne my husband had just turned professional as a boxer and they made a feature of it could I get a recording or any information

  7. D Cample

    Hi, I am trying to trace a gentleman but unfortunately I don’t yet know his name. I do know however, that he appeared on opportunity knocks as a ventriloquist (Hughie Green era). I am not suggesting that he won, so he may have only appeared the once. I know it is a long shot, but does anybody reading this remember the name of any ventriloquists appearing on the show. Thank you

  8. Jenniifer McGirr

    I am desperate to find a clip of Alex Cochrane, a stand up comedian with a Canadian accent who came second in the early 1970’s. He’s my daughter’s Father and this would mean the world to her as he’s probably passed away by now, he was 18 years older than me.

    • David Kimera

      Hi Jenniifer,
      Did you manage to find the clip of Alex?, I actually saw it at the time, I’m guessing 1974. It happened to be on the screen when I came down from upstairs, I called my dad excitedly, unfortunately, he just missed the act.
      The reason I was so excited, was because Around about 1972 I was briefly at a boarding school in Somerset. A friend of Alex, Sheila P, arranged with him to have me stay over on some weekends. My parents, my sister, Sheila, and myself met the Cochranes on the day we went to look at the school.
      I later stayed over at Alex and his wife Jennifer’s home a couple of times, their son Leigh was about 2 years old.
      I hope you managed to find what you were looking for.
      David K.


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