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It’s A Knockout/Jeux Sans Frontiers

WELL-DOCUMENTED BUT far from well-heeled national and pan-European pantomime Olympics, promoting cross-continental integration through the dignified pursuit of citizens in oversized giant-headed frog costumes, the exchange of blows with massive fuck-off foam mallets on greasy poles above paddling pools, and the embarking upon the carrying-of-green-water-in-a-tarpaulin-to-measuring-jug assault course. UK incarnation pitted plucky provincial batteries of squared-jawed blokes and tottering big-haired women against each other in muddy fields adjacent to Notable Local Architecture. STUART HALL was ringmaster, chiefly required to laugh endlessly at stupid 70s people slipping up in acres of 70s mud. Aided and abetted, far from ably, by EDDIE WARING while ARTHUR ELLIS, an ex-referee, kept score, logically. Teams could play “joker” – giant-sized (wasn’t everything?) card brandished from out of nowhere – to double points in any one game. Tenuous theme usually linked proceedings, tenuously linked in with surrondings and tenuous celebrity guestage. European league – JEUX SANS FRONTIERS – found “plucky Brits” battling for the pride of the nation against “ruthlessly efficient” Germans, “romantically careless” Italians, “cunning” French, “unpredictable” Spanish, “frustratingly enigmatic” Swiss, “unknown” Belgians etc.



  1. Paul

    October 28, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I wonder if they’re still doing it on the continent and GB just bottled out because we were always coming last…

    • Joanne Gray

      February 18, 2017 at 1:21 pm

      According to Wikipedia (so excuse any inaccuracies) Jeux Sans Frontieres ended in 1982 but was made anew (without British participation) between 1988 and 1999, involving newly liberated former Warsaw Pact countries as well as Western mainland European countries.

  2. Adrian

    October 28, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Wasn’t there an ‘It’s a Royal Knockout’ circa 1988, with the younger royals taking part?

  3. Paul

    October 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Oh yes there was, Adrian, and a very bolshi Prince (Really Useful) Edward throwing a tant when the reporters quizzed him about whether this was appropriate behaviour for members of the Royal Family. Also it pissed down with rain for the whole sorry event. ‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Off with his head!’

  4. Kitten in a Brandy Glass

    October 28, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I don’t know whether they are still doing it now, but our European neighbours certainly kept the show going for much longer than we did. I saw it on TV when I was living in Spain in 1992/93, and to my shock, there was even a GB team taking part! Shame I can’t remember which small town they represented, but it was presumably organized by posting letters to a few town halls and saying “fancy rounding up a couple of dozen cheery-faced locals and sending them over here for a costumed jolly?”

  5. Chris Hughes

    October 28, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    GB’s representatives in the early ’90s would have come from Wales, as S4C revived it around that time. No, I don’t have any anecdotes about taking part or anything, merely that raw fact.

  6. Chris Hughes

    October 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Oh, that reminds me, I’m sure Challenge TV rebroadcast some of those S4C-era JSF shows, with dubbed-on commentary from Stuart Hall.

    And no, they’re not doing it any more – the EBU periodically make noises about reviving it, but I don’t think anybody wants to pay to mount the thing. They couldn’t be bothered with the Eurovision Dance Contest this year, either.

  7. Adrian

    October 28, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I suspect the insurance cost for such an event these days would rule out a revival, not to mention the risk of injury litigation..

  8. Angryhead

    October 28, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    This show came at just the right time in my life to have an addictive affect. I remember being hooked to this show during the mid-70s as a primary school kid. I recall it being broadcast every Friday night on BBC1. My sister (who’s nine years older than me) had control of what we watched on TV – as most big brothers/sisters do. Because she was too old (or too ‘cool’) to enjoy this show, I was consigned into our freezing cold kitchen to watch it on a crappy ole black and white TV the size of a postage stamp while she lounged around watching what she liked in the living room.
    This show wasn’t probably aimed at a kids’ audience (for a start, it was shown at about 8pm – way past kiddies bedtime), but the mad costumes and running up slopes of ‘gunk’ can be seen on all kinds of kid’s quiz/adventure shows on CBBC now.
    And what about Eddie Waring?… WHAT A LEGEND !!!!!!

  9. Chris Hughes

    October 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Well, it doesn’t stop Total Wipeout or Gladiators happening.

  10. Chris O

    October 29, 2009 at 9:38 am

    David Vine was the original presenter of ‘It’s a Knockout’. Obviously thought ‘Superstars’ was the more credible route to take as far as ‘sports’ presenting was concerned.

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