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Edmonds, Noel (1948-)

Presenter, Producer

Main image of Edmonds, Noel (1948-)

Superficially, Noel Edmonds is a slick TV presenter noted for dazzling sweaters and colourful shirts. More importantly, he has been in the forefront of genuinely groundbreaking TV shows, notably Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and Noel's House Party, which provided entirely new formats for Saturday light entertainment.

Born in Ilford, Essex in 1948, and educated at Brentwood Public School, in 1968 Edmonds plumped for a job at Radio Luxembourg rather than going to university. He joined Radio 1 in 1969, taking over from the sacked Kenny Everett in 1970. Edmonds' breakfast show dominated the airwaves from 1972 to 1977. His smooth style and fondness for punning and practical jokes made him easy on the ear. His first appearance on the BBC's chart show Top of the Pops came in 1972 where he sported his trademark well-trimmed beard.

Beyond Top of the Pops, Edmonds' self-assured, highly professional style made him an exemplary TV presenter. His early appearances generally involved one-off programmes such as Nurse of the Year (BBC, 1976), though he soon graduated to series such as Top Gear (BBC, 1979), a revamped and ill-fated return to Juke Box Jury (BBC, 1979) and Time of Your Life (BBC, 1983) and large-scale events including Live Aid (1985). But, more tellingly, he also hosted a short-lived youth phone-in programme called Z-Shed (BBC, 1975).

In the BBC's Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1978) Edmonds expanded the Z-Shed concept into an innovative format for early Saturday morning TV. The unique concept of children asking for and swapping gifts and toys, while no means perfect, anticipated the exchange mechanisms of eBay by 25 years.

His skills at presenting and reacting spontaneously to viewers' requests came out of years of radio experience, but he was also pioneering in using the physical space of the studio like a prop, allowing the audience to see cameras and wandering around the studio rather than solely presenting from a desk. The atmosphere throughout was informal, with guests sitting amongst the audience. Swap Shop, as it became known, set the template for other shows such as Saturday Superstore (BBC, 1982), and led to Saturday morning competition from ITV's anarchic TISWAS (1974-82) which was promoted from a regional to a national programme.

Having conquered Saturday mornings, Edmonds carried on in a similar vein in the ironically titled The Late Late Breakfast Show (BBC, 1982), his first attempt at a Saturday tea-time format. Studio-bound Edmonds linked to a usually windswept Mike Smith who introduced guests and antics from different locations in the UK. One item in the show called 'Give it a Whirl' encouraged members of the public to try out a range of daring stunts. Tragedy struck in November 1986, when 25-year-old stuntman Michael Lush was killed while rehearsing an elaborate bungee jump. Edmonds resigned two days later, and the BBC axed the show.

However, Edmonds was to return to Saturday tea-time with The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow (BBC, 1988). Edmonds' fondness for practical jokes continued with the 'Gotcha Oscars', where unsuspecting celebrities were duped.

Edmonds finally perfected the tea-time format in Noel's House Party (BBC, 1991). It was broadcast live from the fictional village Crinkley Bottom, which harked back to Edmonds' radio shows, where he would pull off telephone pranks by pretending to be an official from Perkins Grange in Dingley Dell. His show featured 'surprise' celebrities knocking at his door, a gunge tank, 'Grab a Grand', the Noel Edmonds gongs which filmed unsuspecting viewers at home, and more 'Gotchas' ('Oscars' were dropped following legal threats). Then there was Mr Blobby, a pink balloon-like creature who only ever said "Blobby, blobby." Remarkably, Mr Blobby was a popular ingredient in the programme's safe anarchy , and even scored a Christmas Number 1 in 1993 with 'Mr Blobby'. At its peak Noel's House Party attracted audiences of 15 million.

At the same time, he hosted the popular TV quiz show Telly Addicts, which ran from 1985 to 1998 and made popular the word 'hoofer-doofer'. In the mid-1980s he founded the Unique Group, a media and entertainment venture which owns the intellectual property rights of Mr Blobby and Telly Addicts, and others. However, after eight series of Noel's House Party, and dwindling audiences, BBC executives decided to pull the plug on the programme in 1999, and also severed the Corporation's ties with him personally.

For several years Edmonds seemed to be in a TV wilderness. However, interest surfaced again in 2004 with the tongue-in-cheek programme called The Curse of Noel Edmonds (Five). In 2005 a lower-key Noel Edmonds made his comeback presenting Channel 4's game show Deal or No Deal. The show, where contestants guess the contents of money boxes, was an enormous hit, not least thanks to Edmonds' proven skills. Though it originated in the Netherlands, certain elements, especially the all-important telephone, could have been devised with him in mind.

Eddie Dyja

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Juke Box Jury (1959-67)Juke Box Jury (1959-67)

Early pop show in which guests rate the latest singles releases

Thumbnail image of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-82)Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-82)

Pioneering BBC children's phone-in show, hosted by Noel Edmonds

Thumbnail image of Top of the Pops (1964-2006)Top of the Pops (1964-2006)

Long-running, hugely influential chart-based pop music programme

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