Fresh from a triumphant tour of the Far East, Frankie Howerd returned home and was offered his TV debut in a series called The Howerd Crowd, which aired on 11 January 1952.
The series of three shows was written by Eric Sykes and produced by Bill Lyon-Shaw and also starred the Beverley Sisters. The BBC at this time had still not found a successful format for TV comedy and when Frankie insisted on trying out new ideas, including the provision of his own cameraman who was instructed to keep track of Frankie throughout the show, they were more than happy to accommodate him.
The first show was greeted very warmly by the critics even though it didn't meet with the star's approval: "I looked like a pasty faced village idiot who needed a set of false teeth", Frankie noted of that first TV performance. Later still, in his autobiography, he became even more dismissive of the show when he stated, "all I remember of it was that it contained a sketch poking fun at the trendy TV cooks of the day." (It's comforting to know that television has since 'moved on.') But village idiot or not Cecil McGivern, the Controller of TV Programmes sent a letter to Head of Light Entertainment, Ronnie Waldman, to note that: "Frankie Howerd is a natural for television." Indeed, Frankie became a familiar face on TV throughout the 1950's with numerous specials written by Sykes, Spike Milligan and Johnny Speight.
The three 60 minute shows broadcast in the first 'series' were shown monthly from January to March 1952, two more shows went out under the same title in 1955 (co-starring Ernest Maxin) and a one-off special in 1957 was made for the BBC's rival ATV network - Frankie's first show for commercial television.
Published on December 21st, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.