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Derek Hobson introduced the acts while panellists judged the “talent” and often upset performers and viewers alike with their frank comments.
Branded as downright insensitive, New Faces was Opportunity Knocks with bite, and aimed to feature artists who had never appeared on television before, and those who dared to participate found their acts subjected to the views of four ‘experts’.
Tony Hatch and Mickie Most were the regular hard men on the panel. Other regular pundits included Clifford Davis, Alan Freeman, Martin Jackson, comic Ted Ray, Hilary Kingsley, Ed Stewart, nightclub-act booking agent John Smith, Housewives Choice presenter George Elrick and Peter Prichard.
Awarding marks out of ten in categories such as ‘presentation’, ‘content’ and ‘star quality’, the panel’s forthright comments were known to reduce artists to tears at times. Tony Hatch gave comedian Harry Dickman “two points for his nerve” and the switchboard was jammed with complaints.
Both Lonnie Donegan and journalist Clifford Davis awarded acts no marks. Davis gave nil for ‘star quality’ to ventriloquist Ken Graham and was booed by the studio audience, one member of which later slapped his face. He left the studio under escort.
Arthur Askey, on the other hand, thought every act was fantastic (“I thought they were great,” he always said). Some were indeed good enough to make the grade. Early discoveries included Victoria Wood, Les Dennis and Showaddywaddy.
Lenny Henry and Jim Davidson also began on New Faces – one of them was only 16 years old and hysterically funny, the other one was called Jim Davidson . . .
Emmerdale star Malandra Burrows (she played Kathy Sugden) appeared as a singer at the age of nine using the name Malandra Newman, and became the series’ youngest winner. Like other winners she progressed through the heats to the grand final where the series winner was decided.
A rumpus always followed a discovery that an act had appeared on television before (strictly against the rules) and there were arguments between panellists and punch-ups between losing musicians and sound technicians blamed for poor performances.
A singer tipped a bowl of sugar over the head of record producer Alan A Freeman, who’d called her “too camp”.
One New Faces champion, slim Sheffield-born comedienne and singer Marti Caine (real name Lynne Shepherd), went on to host a revival of the series entitled New Faces Of 86 (then 87 and 88). Among the new celebrity critics was newspaper columnist Nina Myskow.
The Johnny Patrick Orchestra provided musical support in the early days, with Harry Rabinowitz’s Orchestra taking over in the 1980s. The show’s original You’re A Star theme song was performed by vocalist Carl Wayne of The Move.