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.
Hughie Green, 1949 – 1978
Bob Monkhouse, 1987 – 1989
Les Dawson, 1990
BBC Light Programme (1949)
Radio Luxembourg (1950s)
BBC Radio – 1949
BBC – 1987 -1990
Original Run: 1949 – 1990 (see intro for full dates)