Putting aside the unlawful and disgraceful activities of the host Stuart Hall It’s a knockout was a cracking show. It did more to improve and destroy Anglo-European relations that any show, save for the Eurovision song contest, could ever hope to. Modern readers may be wondering what this show was about. This little piece will try and give you a flavour and I’ll try to not to mention the Belgians.
The idea was that teams of local people were pitted against each other in a set of reginal competitions. The winners would go on to represent Great Britain in the European finals Jeux Sans Frontieres held throughout the continent. Even the East European country of Yugoslavia, still held under the grip of the USSR, were allowed to play and I sometimes wonder what they must have made of it. It’s surprising that the Russians didn’t want to join in in a “spirit of mutual understand, tovarisch” or in other words make the Soviet Union look better than you. My Dad always said they were sent to the slat mines if they didn’t win. They never did so there must have been a fair bit of salt from 1978 to 1982.
I should explain the games. It wasn’t Scrabble. The word madcap or zany is not used anymore but this took it to another level. It could be anything like balancing on Garage Shelving, from https://www.garage-shelving.co.uk/ no doubt whist dressed as a Monk because you were in Tewkesbury that week (and they’ve got an Abbey), and an army of (not real) nuns from Bromsgrove tried to knock you off with foam candles. Really. That was as nothing as to when to when they got the costumes out. This particular one below saw the first team to burst the balloons being the winner.
If you won your heat you were then expected to repeat the performance in a quarter and semi-final basis until a GB winner was found. This team was then packed of to wherever the final was being held in Europe. Flush with European money the Budget increase dramatically and so did the sets and props as the picture below shows.
It was hoped that the competition would strengthen ties and build understanding but inevitable it just fell down to racial stereotypes. The Germans were efficient and clinical and devoid of humour. Rubbish as they seemed to party hard when they won (and they did the most, 6 times). The French cheated, hard to see how when they were being filmed and watched throughout the world. They won 3 times. We in the GB were paragons of virtue, unless up against the French and we never rubbed it in that we’d won it more times than them. The Belgians were always last. No, they won it twice the first one and the last one. It’s been brought back few times, but I can’t get into it. It was a time sat with my Mum and Dad on a warm Friday night cheering on Blackpool to Victory in 1981. To give you an idea what it was like, better than me, just watch Dugie dressed as a Penguin here.