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Surprise Surprise

"Our" Cilla demonstrates more of that "legendary" "Scouse" "wit"DEVISED BY JEREMY BEADLE as a new vehicle for himself, the bearded one pitched the concept to LWT who sat on it until he went on holiday and then secretly made a pilot with CILLA “HAT” BLACK, back in the big time following years of sprogging after putting in a memorable turn on WOGAN. Originally she was paired with CHRISTOPHER “SO GOODIE” BIGGINS and it was broadcast live, leading to Cilla bantering with JIM “NOSFERATU” ROSENTHAL one week about the following England vs Brazil match, which they didn’t bother editing out when it was repeated on Granada Plus fifteen years later. Imperial phase Surprise didn’t begin until the following year, when Biggins had been replaced by BOB “SOUTHBOUND” CAROLGEES. Later, a beauty contest of guest hosts linked the Searchline spot until viewers voted that GORDON “KRYPTON” BURNS had just the required gravitas to sit on a high stool and show sepia photos of old RAF troops. By this point it was top Friday or Sunday night big fuck-off LWT entertainment, stuffed with daft features like the Cillagram where, just to remind you who she was, Cilla would press-gang an unsuspecting punter in joining her in a relevant song (ie, Cilla turns up at a 64th birthday party to trill “Will you still need me…?”, that sort of thing). Massive child interest centred around the absurd telephones that Cilla would use to ring up the following week’s victims, a decade before Graham Norton. The final item would be a huge reunion between two people with hundreds of years and miles separating them, before Cilla would bellow either “The unexpected hits you between the eyeeeeeeeeeeees” or, later, “And the nicest surprise of all is youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu”, with an instrumental break where she reminded us of how many tears had been generated in the past hour. Meddling in the nineties saw Bob and Gordon leave, and hence terminal decline, and when David Liddiment took over ITV he spent weeks denying he was going to axe it. Then he axed it.



  1. bisted

    October 18, 2009 at 4:05 am

    This was Must-See TV on Sunday nights. My parents loved this show, and believe me, this in itself is a BIG DEAL, because – normally – my dad hated watching any kind of light entertainment. In fact, all he watched was the news, political programmes and WW2 films. For him to watch AND ENJOY Surprise Surprise, proves what mass appeal this show had in it’s heyday.
    I liked Surprise Surprise as well, although Cilla’s singing (or screecing, you decide) depature at the end of every show was pretty painful and embarrasing to sit through.
    Without fail, not a week would go by without my parents moaning during the family reunions near the end of the show. They couldn’t understand how – for example – two sisters / brothers / cousins could fail to keep in contact with each other for 30-odd years until being reunited by Cilla.

  2. Glenn A

    October 18, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Surprise, surprise, the thought hits you right between the eyes.

  3. Ian Tomkinson

    October 18, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    A wonderful evocation of this memorable show. Wasn’t Carolgees to be found at the end of a remote OB most weeks, normally involving a working-mens’ club? There must have been some bizarre incidents in the live days, lying in the archives just waiting to be found. Of course the official title was Surprise! Surprise! and it had the sharpest brushed silver logo which always reminded me of the Six O’clock News.

  4. Saturnsix

    October 20, 2009 at 10:10 am

    In response to bisted – in Biggins’ autobiography (probably available in a pound shop near you right now), he said that the reunions almost inevitably degenerated into rows because the relatives had broken contact for very good reason. He then goes on to kick himself for about a chapter for leaving the show.

  5. Rob Free

    October 25, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Didn’t Biggins do an interactive game on there similar to Bingo? Can’t remember exactly how it worked but I do remember a cartoon rendering of Biggins walking across some numbers on a tv screen.

  6. Glenn A

    October 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Wasn’t Gordon Burns of Granada Reports in later series?

  7. Chris R

    May 27, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I always thought the way the reunited family members reacted with shock when they saw each other for the first time in x number of years was dubious. Surely they would have got suspicious when a friend or relative suggested that they should get tickets to be in the audience, especially if they lived nowhere near the LWT studios?

    “Hmm, haven’t seen Uncle Wilf for 40 years since he moved to Sydney…”

  8. Richard Davies

    October 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Victoria Wood managed to feature a very similar show in Pat & Margaret.

  9. Joanne Gray

    February 25, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    In the 90s, I used to babysit for someone who had Sky – in the days when you got all those funny German and Dutch channels for free. I remember one evening switching onto one of the Dutch channels (RTL, I think?) one Sunday evenings just as “Der Surprise Show” started – almost a carbon copy of Suprise Surprise, except this was hosted by a man – and a singer sprung a surprise on a bunch of dustmen on the job by serenading him.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    February 4, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Surprise Surprise revived Cilla’s career and was loved by the older market that made up the bulk of ITV’ audience on Sunday evenings in the eighties, but most people my age preferred her in Blind Date. However, fair play to Cilla for having such a durable comeback on ITV that far outlasted her eight years on the BBC and ensured a very comfortable retirement for her.
    OK she couldn’t sing for toffee, there are rumours she wasn’t very nice offscreen and her Soouse accent was exaggerated for the television, but she knew how to work an audience and the ratings were huge for all her shows.

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