Click for larger image The Best of Benny Hill
Click for larger image An amusing 1977 Thames compilation of Benny's best moments from the decade. It includes his impersonation of Fanny Craddock, with Bob Todd as her inebriated husband Johnny. Our clip, of the show opening, features Dave Prowse in his pre-Darth Vader days, wearing a pair of pants. Despite his earlier BBC and ATV series, Benny's work for Thames propelled him to worldwide stardom. With endless re-packaging and repeats of his work, one might think Hill worked tirelessly. In fact, only 58 hour-long specials were made, from 1969 to 1989.

Click for larger image Bring on the Girls
Click for larger image A variety show devised for Bruce Forsyth and co-written by Barry Cryer and Dick Hills. In his autobiography, Forsyth recalls that the show was more popular with viewers than the BBC's coverage of the Montreal Olympics, and lead to what he described as a "mini-series" - it was followed in 1977 by Bruce and More Girls and later, Bruce Meets the Girls, where he got to sing, dance and perform sketches with a great array of female talent. Here, Honor Blackman, Lena Zavaroni, The Three Degrees and Twiggy were his glamorous guest stars. It's a good fun show!

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Click for larger image The David Nixon Show
Click for larger image At the height of his career in the 1960s and early 1970s, David Nixon was the best-known magician in the UK. His shows included Tonight with David Nixon (1969), David Nixon's Magic Box (1970), and this one, The David Nixon Show, which started in 1972 and ran until his death in 1978 at the age of 59. Royston Mayoh, the long-running Thames producer/director, oversaw this 1975 series. Guests in this edition were Rod Hull and Emu, Fred Kaps, Penny Meredith and June Bronhill. The magical advisor was Ali Bongo, who later worked with Paul Daniels.

Click for larger image The David Nixon Show
Click for larger image Joining Nixon for this edition on 16th June 1975 were Tom O'Connor, Frank Brents and Wilma Reading. In addition to hosting his magic series, David Nixon was a popular TV personality. In the 1950s he had been a regular panelist on What's My Line? He went on to be Basil Brush's first partner and to present the British version of Candid Camera. For Thames, he hosted the original Who's Baby? and Checkmate, teaching the basics of chess. Famously on 15th May 1974, he presented an episode of This is Your Life in which his victim was the series' regular host Eamonn Andrews.

Click for larger image Des O'Connor Tonight
Click for larger image A staple of ITV Wednesday night entertainment for years and years, this chat/music/comedy show originally launched on BBC2 in 1977, before Des whipped it over to Thames in 1982. These examples from 1986 boast Mel Brooks and Dame Kiri te Kanowa among their guests. What's more, Laurie Holloway incorporated Salute to Thames into the start of his Des O'Connor theme tune, so the opening Thames ident plays in with different instruments to those in the standard. These clips were recorded in the Central TV region and include the original continuity announcements.

Des O'Connor Tonight
1986 Christmas Special
Once again, Laurie Holloway's orchestra reduces Salute to Thames to schmaltz before peforming Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, as the signature to this Christmas special. Guests include Joan Collins and Dudley Moore, along with a US comedian and ventriloquist. It's all very festive indeed!

Click for larger image Dick Emery's Comedy Hour / The Dick Emery Hour
1979 /1980
Click for larger image Dick Emery is probably most famous for his BBC sketch series, which ran for 18 years and 166 editions, however he did find time to make three comedy specials for Thames and we have two opening sequences here. The Comedy Hour from 06/06/1979 was his first show for ITV, featuring all his usual characters and guest starring Beryl Reid; the Dick Emery Hour was his third and last ITV special, featuring Richard Todd, Lynda Carter (alias Wonder Woman) plus Anna Dawson and Bill Pertwee, shown on 03/12/1980.

Click for larger image Hollywood or Bust
Click for larger image In his opening link, Bruce Forsyth makes it clear this isn't a game show but a fun show, where members of the studio audience will become stars overnight! In fact the contestants were chosen at random and asked to re-enact scenes from famous movies, such as 'The King and I' and 'Gone With The Wind', with Forsyth as director. In his autobiography, he says he turned down a third series of sitcom 'Slinger's Day' to make this, but hints at contractual problems over the format. Presumably that's why only one series was made: the six editions were shown between 10/04/1984 and 15/05/1984.

Click for larger image The Ken Dodd Laughter Show
Click for larger image Ken Dodd's variety career took off on TV during the 1960s with seven series for the BBC, but he also appeared in specials and series for ABC, ATV, LWT and this one for Thames, a six-part run from 08/01/1979 to 12/02/1979. Produced by Dennis Kirkland, who worked so frequently with Benny Hill, it offers a wonderful collection of songs and sketches involving the guest cast of Talfryn Thomas and Rita Webb, who appears in one episode as Miss World! The eye-catching title sequence combines live action and animation, to beam Doddy's face onto the side of a London theatre.

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Click for larger image Life with Cooper
1969 Series 3
Click for larger image This series started its life on ABC-TV (the precursor to Thames) and had enjoyed two series between 1966 and 1968, totalling 14 episodes. The final six episodes were produced by Thames and shown between 08/04/1969 and 20/05/1969. It was a scripted sketch series in which Tommy Cooper relived amusing situations from his past, albeit purely fictional, with the help of a supporting cast. In this edition he's an accident-prone officer of the London Fire Brigade. More of Tommy's Thames shows can be found on our second page of entertainment specials, via the link at the top of the page.

Click for larger image The Max Bygraves Hour / Max
1970 / 1971
Click for larger image Two variety specials from 07/01/1970 and 12/05/1971, starring the much-loved entertainer Max Bygraves. His career has lasted for more than sixty years and throughout that time he worked for all the major UK broadcasters, notably the BBC, ATV and Thames. He also holds the record for the most appearances in the Royal Variety Show, 19 in all.

Click for larger image The Morecambe and Wise Show
Click for larger image The nation's favourite comedy double act in their very first show for Thames, following their defection from the BBC. This hour long special featured guest appearances by Donald Sinden, Judi Dench, Leonard Sachs and Peter Cushing, still chasing payment for his 1969 sketch appearance as King Arthur. It begins with Eric and Ernie being dumped outside Teddington Studios by a BBC van. This is probably one of the funniest sketches they ever appeared in during the Thames series.

Click for larger image Eric and Ernie's Christmas Show
Click for larger image For six years, ITV failed to beat the BBC's Christmas ratings supremacy, due to the stellar success of The Morecambe and Wise Show. The only solution for ITV had been for Thames to entice the duo back. Following the October debut, their 1978 Christmas special featured guest appearances by Leonard Rossiter and Thames stalwart Eamonn Andrews. Eric and Ernie never lost the love of the British public, but their Thames shows were always considered less successful than those made at the BBC, partly because of their tendency to recycle old sketches and routines from earlier in their career.

Click for larger image Christmas with Eric and Ernie
Click for larger image This production, from Christmas Day 1979, is largely a chat show introduced by David Frost. He lifts the performance pressure from Eric, who was recovering from major heart surgery. Eric's illness is played down, and the show is great fun. Old friends Des O'Connor, Glenda Jackson, Arthur Tolcher and Janet Webb rally round, and Sweeney star Garfield Morgan doubles for Eric as an opening gag. Four more specials and twenty-six half-hours were to follow, until the last Morecambe and Wise show on 26/12/1983.

Click for larger image The Morecambe and Wise Show
Click for larger image This title sequence graced Eric and Ernie's first series of half-hour shows, running from 03/09/1980 to 08/10/1980. Guests across the run included Terry Wogan, Hannah Gordon and Gemma Craven.

Click for larger image The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
Click for larger image This show is packed with stars and is probably of great interest to fans of Star Wars, considering Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing are involved. In the closing sequence, Cushing finally claims his fee after eleven years of increasingly desperate requests! Peter Barkworth and Hannah Gordon are involved too, in Ernie's re-written version of Hamlet... this routine centres on the guests trying to avoid a poisoned chalice, by swapping goblets on a rotating table top. It had appeared many times on their show down the years, and Cushing had appeared in an early iteration of it back in 1969!

Click for larger image The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
1981 / 1982
Click for larger image Specials repeated on Five on 26/12/2002 and 26/12/2005. The 1981 guests are Ralph Richardson, Susannah York and Robert Hardy - who returns in 1982 with Rula Lenska. The occasional use of chromakey shows how 80s technology was giving these comedy greats a helping hand. But the repetition of gags and routines becomes very apparent. York's appearance in the Cleopatra sketch doesn't hold a candle to the 1971 Glenda Jackson original; the Rula Lenska musical number was first performed in 1976, and Eric's gag of phoning up famous people and asking them to appear is just what he did in the 1973 BBC Christmas show.

Click for larger image Eric and Ernie's Christmas Show
Click for larger image Not only was this the last ever Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, it was their last TV show ever, first seen on Boxing Day 1983 and repeated on Five exactly 21 years later. For Eric and Ernie's fans it makes for poignant viewing. They no longer appear to be on top of their game, as sketch after sketch is rehashed from their glory days, with new guest stars Fulton Mackay, Derek Jacobi, Nanette Newman and Peter Skellern. At the time it probably seemed a good idea to revive old favourites (some of which date back to their 1960s ATV era) but frankly it appears that this once great team was not served by good material at the end.