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Good, Jack (1930-)

Producer, Writer, Actor

Main image of Good, Jack (1930-)

Two years after Elvis Presley and his ground-breaking brand of rock 'n' roll made such an impact on American pop music and life-styles, British television producer Jack Good introduced rock 'n' roll to British television with the innovative series 6.5 Special (BBC, 1957-58).

The vivacious style of the programme, integrating the teenage studio audience with the frantic performers, established a new form of television presentation as well as embracing a new TV audience (teenagers) alongside a new popular music (rock 'n' roll).

As a rock 'n' roll impresario, Jack Good's background seemed an unlikely one. He had studied at the London Academy of Music and Drama and had been president of Oxford University Dramatic Society. He achieved early acting experience in the West End, as well as teaming with writer-performer-lyricist Trevor Peacock as a comedy act at London's Windmill Theatre.

Although he had set his sights on a career in theatre (playing Othello at the early age of 15), Good landed a job as a light entertainment producer at BBC Television. He was told to make a programme for adolescents: "something with mountain climbing for boys, fashion for girls, that sort of thing".

Good had just seen the film Rock Around The Clock (US, 1956), which on its British release had gained a certain notoriety for exciting teenage audiences to the level of riot in the cinemas. The thrilling aspect to the cinema screenings for Good was when the audience took to the aisles to dance to the music. It was this high-energy participation that Good infused into 6.5 Special in 1957.

Despite the early appearances of rocker Tommy Steele, skiffle leader Lonnie Donegan, and jazzmen Johnny Dankworth and Humphrey Lyttleton, the BBC demanded that the programme emphasise a teenage magazine format.

Exasperated, Good left the BBC, joined ITV and launched Oh Boy! in June 1958. Broadcast live from the Hackney Empire, London, Oh Boy! (1958-59) became television's first true showcase for home-grown rock 'n' rollers. It helped launch the careers of young Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury.

Oh Boy!'s dynamic half-hour per-episode parade of non-stop rockers barely gave the screaming audience time to draw breath. The show became a milestone in British television presentation, eventually leading the way to the modern form of youth culture television further developed by the likes of MTV and producer Janet Street-Porter. (The Oh Boy! format was revived briefly in 1979 by ITV to lacklustre effect.)

Good followed with Boy Meets Girls (ITV, 1959-60), an equally hectic sequel featuring Marty Wilde as presenter and performer, and guests including Terry Dene, Adam Faith and Joe Brown. Through Boy Meets Girls Good was instrumental in introducing American rockers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent to the British public (the latter, incidentally, re-styled by Good as a black leather-clad Richard III biker figure).

Wham! (ITV) followed in 1960, adding the likes of Jess Conrad and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates to the on-stage rockers. This time, however, the show had a more conventional compere, Keith Fordyce, who would go on to the Good-influenced Ready, Steady, Go! (ITV, 1963-66).

When Wham! finished its run in June 1960, the Jack Good rock 'n' roll era was over. Although the BBC had tried to emulate Good's ITV success with their 6.5 Special follow-up, Drumbeat (1959), British television after Wham! returned to the more conventional form with the hit parade Thank Your Lucky Stars (ITV, 1961-66).

In 1964, Brian Epstein commissioned him to produce a TV special for The Beatles, Around The Beatles (ITV, tx. 6/5/1964). Produced with the frenetic energy that had marked the earlier Good programmes for ITV, the hour-long show was a giddy round-up of contemporary popsters (including Cilla Black, P.J. Proby, Millie, Long John Baldry) with The Beatles climaxing the enthusiastic broadcast.

Following the Beatles programme, American network ABC-TV invited Good to produce a youth-market series featuring many of the top names in popular music performing their latest releases. The series was Shindig (1964-66) and among Good's 'discoveries' were the Righteous Brothers, Bobby Sherman and Sonny & Cher.

In 1968 Good conceived and produced a rock adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, Catch My Soul, which opened on stage in Los Angeles (featuring Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago) and then had a run in London (with P.J. Proby) for a season. The film version (US, d. Patrick McGoohan) was released in 1974.

Tise Vahimagi

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