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291 Club, The (1991-93)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of 291 Club, The (1991-93)
LWT for ITV, tx. 19/4/1991-20/6/1993.
Pilot and two series, 14 x 60 min episodes total, colour
Production CompanyAPC Productions
ProducersCharlie Hanson
 Paul Lewis
 Beverly Randall
DirectorSteve Wood

Presenters: D.J. Elayne, Miles Crawford, Tony Gulley

Show full cast and credits

Music/comedy talent show, filmed in front of a live audience at the Hackney Empire.

Show full synopsis

The 291 Club is not for the faint-hearted. Its presenter Miles Crawford, coming across like Trevor McDonald after half a dozen Red Bulls, has a wacky persona pre-dating Ainsley Harriott by several years. With a disconcerting habit of coming on stage dressed in a red lycra superhero costume, he seems to set the tone for the rest of the night.

In these days of PopStars (ITV, 2001) cry-alongs and group hugs it is almost refreshing to witness the ruthless reception the majority of the contestants receive from the audience. Recorded live from the Hackney Empire, each show sees a new group of hopeful contestants subjected to the especially hard to please tastes of a vociferously vocal audience. Even the compere for the night, DJ Elayne, finds herself booed the moment she appears, and she isn't even performing. Most of the audience seem to come along to boo, not cheer, the hapless performers. When a performer earns their respect, however, the crowd are, if anything, even more vocal in showing their approval.

It seems surprising that the contestants should subject themselves to the risk of humiliation, given that the top prize was not the multi-million record contracts on offer with today's Fame Academy (BBC, 2002) and Pop Idol (ITV 2002), but a trip to the Apollo in New York.

There is a genuine attempt to catch the live atmosphere of the event, and the director of the show takes as much interest in the crowd as he does the contestants. While the show brings out three celebrity judges to comment on the week's contestants, it is the audience which has the ultimate say, dictating who goes through to the latter stages of the competition.

While the show was unchallenging light entertainment, it is worth noting the content of the advertisements during the commercial breaks. One such advert featured a young black police officer in a number of situations, the final message saying "The Metropolitan Police wants to hire more people from ethnic minorities." The advert's message makes it clear who they believe the show's core audience will be, a testament perhaps that in television programming few things are ever a coincidence.

Ali Jaafar

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Video Clips
1. Introduction/Leo Chester (6:52)
2. D Natural (3:23)
Complete programme - Part 1 (22:15)
Complete programme - Part 2 (17:21)
Complete programme - Part 3 (10:30)
TV Variety