Tuesday, 4 August 2015

What’s it all about…

I haven’t said a lot about Cilla Black’s death. The truth is that my views on her TV shows, 'Blind Date' and 'Surprise Surprise', probably won’t be very popular. Oh, she had a great voice back in the day and she fitted nicely into the Mersey Beat boom, but that was a long time ago. So long ago that it is a distant memory even to me.

Of course I never met her, but from what her friends say she was much loved in the spheres she mingled in. Us non-celebs only got to view the Cilla that she wanted us to see and there is no doubt that she came across as  a people person, very ordinary like everyone, even though I suspect that she wasn’t. I suspect that she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it.

Back in the Eighties, Nineties, and even the early noughties I couldn’t watch Cilla on television without the feeling that I was seeing someone playing a part. She was so different from the singer who played with the Beatles. I’ve never heard anyone else say ‘lorra, lorra’, or ‘chuck’ in quite the same way that she did. Of course she wasn’t the only entertainer building her career and popularity on snappy catchphrases and hammed up accents. I’m certainly not saying that she wasn’t good at what she did. She was brilliant at what she did, even if I really didn’t like it personally.

For me ‘Surprise Surprise’ and ‘Blind Date’ were, if not the beginning, then a contributing factor towards the end of ‘proper’ television. Before that there were plenty of ‘real’ programmes – plays, documentaries, intelligent quiz shows, even the comedy half-hours had a harder edge and a point usually. It was a world where we watched television without any real expectation of ever appearing on it, certainly not becoming famous through it.

Cilla’s two Saturday night shows were, in my opinion, some of the earliest of the glammed-up reality shows that led to today's television circus. ‘Blind Date’ took ordinary people, gave them their two minutes of fame, gave them the opportunity to perform and some of them went on to become very famous - Jenni Falconer, Ed Byrne, and of course the queen of talent shows Amanda Holden.

‘Surprise Surprise’ was a very different kettle on fish, granting surprised members of the public their long-held wishes, setting up tricks to fool people, prank phone calls  and reuniting guests with long-lost loved ones. It had a blend going on, but it was the sentimental granny reunions that really captured the public attention and pulled at the public heartstrings.

Of course both were really popular with the television viewing public, and what the public wants the public gets.

Today the world of television is littered with these type of sentimental and tragedy focused programmes from rebuilding homes, to planting gardens, tracing ancestry; even the National Lottery is in on the act - and then we have all the people’s awards shows. Even a new 'Surprise Surprise' is back, albeit without the fun and coated in sugared tears. 'Blind Date' also gave rise to a host of dating programmes which, whilst seemingly good fun and almost irresistible, could be seen as just meat markets for aspiring WAGs.

I’m not blaming Cilla, she needed to reinvent herself after her singing career went cool and she presented clever, popular programmes very, very well. But sometimes I’d like to find something worth watching on a Saturday evening that doesn’t involve a sad story or young men and women making themselves look silly and cheap.

Anyway, Cilla will be missed, it's a tragedy and she was taken far too soon. There's no doubt that whatever she did she put her all into it and was wonderfully successful. For me though I will remember with fondness the young singer from Liverpool and not the colourful television presenter she became.