The Good Old Days

Goodness, BBC4 sometimes is a complete revelation. Neither the Husband nor I were expecting to see a re-run of the long-running music hall re-enactment on our television screens on a Friday night. From the amount of noise he was making, you would be forgiven for thinking that he was suffering from an overdose of nostalgia. And would it be unkind of me to admit that I loved every minute?

The Good Old Days was the labour of love of Leonard Sachs, who himself portrayed the Master of Ceremonies, and was broadcast weekly from the Leeds Variety Music Hall from 1953 to 1983. Everybody who was anybody in variety appeared over the thirty years that the show ran – the episode that I watched over the weekend featured Ronnie Corbett and Rosemary Squires, whom my mum reminded me was known as “the English Doris Day”. And if your memory serves you correctly, every single episode ended with a rousing rendition of Down at the Old Bull and Bush – audience participation being both expected and required.

The audience really were a vital part of the show’s longevity. Everybody dressed in period costume and joined in at appropriate moments, as they would have done had it been a genuine music hall performance. One of my thwarted lifetime ambitions was to have been in the audience for The Good Old Days; for some reason, when you’re seven, you see nothing at all wrong with making an Edwardian evening gown out of your gran’s best brocade curtains.

Watching it again, I realised how much a product of its time The Good Old Days was; many of the jokes would be unbroadcastable now (I’m amazed this episode wasn’t interfered with by a deranged censor with a bleep) and some of the acts were simply not very entertaining. And who would take over from Leonard Sachs, making up words to introduce every act (as a true MC would) and clearly loving every second of the evening, no matter how flat the acts were?

As I said, I loved watching it again and realised how much a formative part of my childhood it was. But I’m not certain I’d want it back; perhaps only when I’m in need of that overdose of nostalgia.


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