The Old Grey Whistle Test, That’s Life!, Juke Box Jury and Crackerjack were all made in front of large audiences in what the BBC called The BBC Television Theatre, which survives today as the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Built in 1903 and designed by Frank Matcham, the BBC occupied the building for nearly 40 years from 1953 to 1991. It was near to its Lime Grove Studios and a short distance from the building site on Wood Lane that would one day become Television Centre.
Work was slow on Television Centre and the recently-closed Empire theatre offered producers a purpose-built theatre with existing seating, making it ideal for large studio-based music and variety shows.
Initially, the venue was used as if it was an outside broadcast, with cameras feeding back to a scanner van.
As the site proved popular, the BBC refitted it with a larger stage and permanent television production galleries. The venue was a mecca for the stars of the 1960s, and the BBC featured Lulu, Shirley Bassey and Cilla Black in a variety of sparkling shows.
It was upgraded to colour from 1968-69 and, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, was the recording venue for some fondly-remembered shows such as The Generation Game, Crackerjack, The Old Grey Whistle Test, This Is Your Life, and Terry Wogan‘s eponymous chat show Wogan.
Terry Wogan presented the last show there in July 1991. In 1993, The Shepherd’s Bush Empire was acquired by entrepreneur Andrew Mahler, who invested over £1m in the building in improvements and refurbishments. In 1994, the building re-opened under its original name of The Shepherd’s Bush Empire and since then it has hosted gigs and dance nights.