Saturday, 19 August 2017

RIP Bruce Forsyth

The big, sad news yesterday was of course the death of veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth at the age of 89.

As with many tributes, I have to say that as a kid growing up watching TV in the '80s and the '90s, Bruce Forsyth was everywhere and, given that at this point his career had already dated back some thirty years to the '50s, it was a testament to his popularity and staying power that he continued to be at the top of his game. I well remember game shows like Play Your Cards Right, You Bet, The Price Is Right and even the largely forgotten Takeover Bid, but best of all was the successful '90s revival of his '70s game show The Generation Game. I even remember sitcoms like Slinger's Day and his chat show Bruce's Guest Night. Bruce Forsyth was as much a part of the public conscious and the framework of British popular society as he was showbusiness. You knew all the catchphrases, you knew at least one person who did a Brucie impersonation, you may even have done it yourself.

And then in the '00s, when most people would rest on their laurels and waltz off into a retirement consisting of more time on the golf course, Forsyth came back bigger than ever with the BBC's hit Saturday night show, Strictly Come Dancing which he presented for ten years from 2004 until 2014.

I have to put my cards on the table and confess that I never truly bought into the BBC's adoration of Bruce at this stage in his career or that he was the last of the variety entertainers and therefore the only man who could possibly present Strictly Come Dancing. There are other all round entertainers in showbusiness (Brian Conley immediately springs to mind) but the BBC wanted Bruce and, in doing so, they perpetuated the myth that he was the last of his kind. He was very good on Strictly, but he could also be very poor too. Those corny gags at the top of the show and the painful, prolonged bits of shtick between the dances, the fumbling could be pretty hard to watch at times if I'm being brutally honest. And yet there were moments of genuine stardom, moments were you realised this was a man born to entertain a live audience. When you saw Bruce at his best you saw every bit of his many years experience working a room to its fullest. Ironically, it was often the impromptu moments, the times when the show wasn't perhaps going to plan - those moments away from the puerile scripts - that Bruce thrived. In those moments (such as the ones included below) you were instantly transported back to The Generation Game, watching him come in between some hapless couple making a hash of things, and equally the years seemed to drop away from him too. This was an entertainer who instinctively knew how to read both a moment in time and the audience he was playing too - an entertainer not born for wireless earpieces and the auto-cue. 

In short he may in later years have been something of a man out of time but its to his credit that he continued to entertain so many millions of people, young and old, and picked up new fans and audiences too.


1 comment:

  1. Nice tribute and like you, I cringed at the puerile jokes in the latter years of Strictly but when the chips were down his years (and years) of experience in live television held him in good stead when things went wrong. Doubtful if we'll ever have anyone with a career that lasts quite as long as he started at such a young age and continued long after he would have "picked up the pension". RIP Bruce.