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Billy Cotton Band Show, The (1956-65)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Edition originally transmitted 24 December 1961

Audience expectation of Billy Cotton's familiar cry of 'Wakey Wakey' is undercut by the announcer, Alex Mackintosh, stealing his thunder. Cotton corrects him, pointing out that this show is a Wakey Wakey Tavern, when Eric Sykes appears as Robin Hood to contradict Billy Cotton in turn and announce a pantomime. A song and dance number ensues, with the band dressed as Merry Men reprising the well-known Robin Hood theme and Eric and Bill vie for the type of show it is to be, setting the tone which moves between a conventional Billy Cotton show and pantomime for the rest of the programme. Trumpeter Grisha Farfel plays the hit tune Moon River. Eric reappears as Aladdin, with Billy releasing the fairy godmother (Hattie), who talks in the rhyming convention of panto.

Various pantomime stock characters appear, played by the regulars in a musical skit on trade unions, parodied via popular songs. The stock transformation scene is sent up and subverted with use of a screen partly off camera to turn Kathie Kay into Cinderella, and Billy appears as Buttons for the song 'Give Us a Kiss for Christmas'. A fill-in scene at the rather Germanic Blue Boar Inn provides opportunity for a Mrs Mills piano sing-along, interrupted by the 'pot-boy' Ricky Stevens, who sings his contemporary and only hit record, 'I Cried for You'.

On a more serious note, Billy introduces John Williams to play some Bach. Eric appears with guitar to duet comically with Williams and, after a quick change, Billy and Eric, as babies, join Hattie to mime to the Beverley Sisters 'I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus', dissolving into hiccoughs. A spoof on Come Dancing follows giving Jeremy Lloyd chance to play the dinner-jacketed conductor while a pair of genuine ballroom champions dance, followed by assorted comedy dancing including a tango with Bill, Rita, Hattie and Eric.

A clock strikes, and darkness falls to reveal Eric and Bill dancing alone in a spotlight. An army boot substitutes for Cinderella's glass slipper, and they run to the audience to look for the owner. The credits roll, and Hattie joins them, appearing to kick the boot over her head into the audience...