For generations of British schoolchildren, if it was Friday, five to five, and you were not a maverick and watching ITV then it could only mean one thing: Crackerjack.
But the BBC’s imminent revival of the show will have an important difference. The weekend will still be boisterously ushered in, but from now on it will be: “It’s Friday. It’s six o’clock. And it’s Crackerjack.”
The change is a sign of the times, the show’s co-host Sam Nixon told Radio Times. “Five to five is very early these days, what with after-school clubs. There wouldn’t be enough people watching because they’d not be home in time.”
The variety show was a teatime TV institution for nearly three decades, running from 1955 until 1984. It featured a noisy live audience, games with the reward of a pencil and a comedy sketch finale.
Hosts included Eamonn Andrews, Leslie Crowther, Michael Aspel, Ed Stewart and Stu Francis, a club comic with the catchphrase “Ooh, I could crush a grape” and its hundreds of variations. Performers included Jack Douglas, Ronnie Corbett, Peter Glaze, Don Maclean, Bernie Clifton, The Krankies and Basil Brush.
When it returns, Crackerjack will be on CBBC, rather than BBC One, which drew criticism from former presenters including Francis, who asked: “Why put it out in the wilderness?”
Nixon, who will present with his showbiz partner Mark Rhodes, defended the decision. “When children’s TV came off BBC One, we all thought it was a shame because not as many people would see it,” he said. “But that was ages ago. These days, if you want to watch a kids’ show, you’ll find the channel.”
Making a return will be the Double or Drop game, where young contestants have to hold on to piles of daft prizes they receive for correctly answering quiz questions such as, in an edition from 1979, “What is the modern name of Constantinople?” or “In which sport are picadors used?”
Sid Cole, the executive producer, said the programme would also follow the example of US shows that use social media to increase their audiences.
“The programme will probably be cut up – so, some of it will be on YouTube and our social media,” Cole said. “It’ll be diced up in order to entice people to come to it … that model will become commonplace going forward.”