1 9 5 7 (UK)
7 x 30 minute episodes
When theatre impresario Jack Hylton was awarded the contract to provide fledgeling ITV company Associated-Rediffusion’s entertainment programmes in 1955, he very much hoped that TV would begin to provide him with new hits for the stage. Instead, he ended up using established acts from some of his shows to fill the gaps in his television programming schedule, creating plenty of free, but not necessarily good, publicity in the process.
A prime example of this was The Music Box, which appeared on Friday nights for a brief period at the start of 1957.
It encompassed a different sort of variety programme every week, ranging from extended extracts from a Crazy Gang revue at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre to actor Terry-Thomas introducing an awkward mixture of comedy and song. Each programme had a different host holding together an assortment of singers, novelty acts, dancers and musicians, ranging from ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray and his comedy juggling to the high-stepping dance routines of the John Tiller Girls.
Many famous names appeared in the programmes, including comics Max Miller and Tommy Trinder, and American film star George Raft, who appeared as a favour to Hylton when the scheduled bill-topper, George Formby, lost his voice and had to pull out.
As with much of the Hylton output of the time, there is little about Music Box that is unique or different. Several of the musical performers were in Hylton shows then running in London’s West End, like the Crazy Gang’s ‘These Foolish Kings’.
Indeed, television critics of the day were quick to comment on the detail that many of the programmes were little more than shameless plugs for his theatrical empire. In many respects the series is little more than a quota-filler, hastily put together in order to make up the number of hours of entertainment Hylton was obligated to supply to Associated-Rediffusion.