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Record Breakers (1972-2001)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Record Breakers (1972-2001)
BBC, 1972-2001
276 episodes in 30 series, colour
ProducersAlan Russell
 Michael Forte
 Sally Fraser
 Eric Rowan
 Greg Childs

Presenters: Roy Castle; Norris McWhirter; Ross McWhirter; Fiona Kennedy (Series 12-15); Cheryl Baker (Series 16-26); Kriss Akabusi (Series 22-26); Ronald Reagan Jnr (Series 25-26); Linford Christie (Series 27-29); Jez Edwards (Series 27-30)

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The tallest, shortest, fastest and slowest of everything, with facts and figures from the Guinness Book of Records.

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The great British schoolboy is well known as a lover of useless facts and in the 1970s was often found perusing the more oddball entries in the world-famous Guinness Book of Records. Record Breakers translated the book to TV - quirky, comic records alongside tales of sporting achievement were its mainstay.

Roy Castle was more than mere presenter - the all-round entertainer broke several records, including fastest tap dance, playing the most instruments on one song (including a kettle and a kitchen sink) and the River Thames bridge parascending record. His trumpet playing on the end theme 'Dedication' closed each show. Castle's enthusiasm and have-a-go pluck characterised the series.

Roy was initially joined by Guinness Book founders, twins Ross and Norris McWhirter. The former athletes were always identical in blazers and flannels. In November 1975 Ross, like his brother active in far-right politics, was shot dead by IRA gunmen after offering a £50,000 reward for their capture. Brother Norris' recall of world records continued to amaze in the 'On The Spot' quiz. Only one question stumped him: 'Which tree has the most leaves?'

Largely studio-based for the first few series, from 1974 the series took its lead from Blue Peter's (BBC, 1958-) expeditions and annually travelled as far as New York, California, Canada, Hawaii and Australia to gather location reports.

From 1974, Christmas light entertainment specials grew to become huge spectaculars, featuring all of the BBC Children's programme stars. The 1977 All-Star Record Breakers included perhaps the series' biggest item - the world's largest tap troupe dancing in formation outside BBC Television Centre.

Roy Castle died from lung cancer in 1994. He was succeeded - but never replaced - by presenters including British athletes Kriss Akabusi and Linford Christie. Norris McWhirter died in April 2004.

Falling audiences meant the series was quietly rested in 2001. Thirty series is not quite a record in children's television, but certainly shows dedication.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1, The world's biggest blanket (3:05)
2. Test Norris (3:31)
3. 100 yards backwards record (02:15)
Complete episode (25:02)
Castle, Roy (1932-1994)
Children's TV in the 1970s
Factual Children's Television