Perhaps one of Television’s most appealing variety shows, Sunday Night at the Palladium is a British television variety show that was hosted from the London Palladium theatre in London’s West End. Originally produced by ATV for the ITV network from 1955 to 1969, it went by its original name Sunday Night at the London Palladium from 25 September 1955 to 1965 until the name was changed to The London Palladium Show from 1966 to 2 February 1969.
It underwent three revivals, first from 28 October 1973 to 28 October 1974 where it retained its Sunday Night at the London Palladium title, second in 2000 under the title Tonight at the London Palladium, and third from 2014 onwards under the title Sunday Night at the Palladium dropping London.
It made it’s debut on the opening weekend of ITV in 1955. At this time the regular host was Tommy Trinder, who was one of Britain’s best loved stand up comedians of the late 1930’s to the 1960’s. Tommy Trinder was the first in a line of famous hosts over the years that included one Bruce Forsyth and a young Jimmy Tarbuck.
The show was a huge success with the viewing public drawing weekly audiences of around 14 million. Perhaps the best remembered show was the one where Bruce Forsyth and comedian Norman Wisdom performed the entire show themselves, improvising wildly to the delight of the audience. This was due to a strike by acting union Equity.
In 1967, TV mogul Lord Grade axed the show. The reasons for this remain obscure, but he is said to have admitted that it was one of his biggest mistakes.
The show comprised two halves. The first half of the show would comprise the Tiler girls (a popular dance troupe) and the lesser known acts. Then came a game show Beat The Clock. It featured words stuck to a magnetic board and people had to “arrange them into a well known phrase or saying” in 30 seconds as the second hand moved around a large clock face. Other times couples had to perform a trick or stunt, like even changing clothes (previously put on, on top of their ordinary clothes) with each other within a set time.
The second part of the show was were the big stars shone. This featured many top acts over the years including Bill Haley rocking around the clock, Chubby Checker who introduced the “new dance” The Twist to the country with a whole stage full of people dancing the Twist and Sammy Davis, Jr. met the girls in 1961. Other star guests included: Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Johnny Ray, Liberace, Petula Clark, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Italian mouse puppet Topo Gigio came back a number of times.
The show closed with a huge revolving stage where the Tiller Girls, the compere and that nights guests stood on it as it slowly turned around to the familiar end tune of the show.
Tommy Trinder (1955–1958)
Bruce Forsyth (1958–1960 and 1961-64)
Don Arrol (1960–61)
Norman Vaughan (1962–1965, 1974)
Jimmy Tarbuck (1965–67)
Jim Dale (1973-74)
Various 2014 – Present
Produced By: Associated Television for ITV
Original Transmission Dates: 2nd September 1955 – Present
The format was revived in the 1980s as Live From Her Majesty’s, Live from the Piccadilly and Live From the Palladium with comedian Jimmy Tarbuck on hosting duties. Live from Her Majesty’s is sadly best remembered as the show on which comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a fatal heart attack, collapsing midway through his act.
A further revival, in 2000, was called Tonight at the London Palladium, fronted by Bruce Forsyth, surprisingly this was not a ratings winner and subsequently only ran for one series.
Live From Her Majesty’s
Tonight at the London Palladium
Not all of the shows were recorded. Of 126 shows that were broadcast, only 5 remain in full. All surviving material was released in 2010 on DVD.