It's Friday. It's five to five. It's Crackerjack!

And it was chuffin' painful.

Crackerjack was a variety show for kids, on BBC TV (UK), and it ran for years and years too. It doesn't seem to have got very much better as it ran.

It started in the 60's, and featured sketches and a sort of kids' quiz affair where you could win a 'Crackerjack pencil' (the audience - seemingly all, oddly, made up of scouts and very very depressed scout leaders... - would have to shout back 'Crackerjack!' whenever they heard it mentioned. I haven't the faintest idea why). Presumably there were better prizes to be had the further through the quiz you went, although none stick in my mind... and the children - clearly consumer-merchandise-starved - seemed happy with the writing implements. (Pencils?! I ask you... If they tried to give pencils away today, there'd be an outcry.) Eamonn Andrews and Leslie Crowther were involved.

The show got sillier as it headed towards the 70's and 80's. Peter Glaze, Don Maclean and Bernie Clifton (the other guy with the emu) were the 'comedians' and Michael Aspel or Ed Stewart ('Stewpot') hosted it. The audience still screamed 'Crackerjack' whenever it was cued (it seems an odd way to foster enthusiasm in a show, but still...), and there were still sketches and what have you, which always degenerated into a tired rendition of a pop song of the day. I remeber one sketch being about a chap who was a real villain 'cos he was called Niggle. Eventually everyone realised that his name was actually 'Nigel' and, seeing as that was a far more sensible name, he stopped being a villain: the cast decided to help him plan the rest of his life, and so sang 'We're only making plans for Nigel...' which was one of those utterly inscrutable and unfathomable songs of the age.

And there was 'Double or Drop' too. Three lucky kids would stand on a podium (one per kid, you understand) and have to answer questions. For every one they got right, they were rewarded with a game, or a toy, or some such (pencils were sort of a given by this stage, I think) but they had to keep hold of them. If they dropped one, they got given it back along with a cabbage to hold too. If they got a question wrong they also got a cabbage. Three cabbages and you were out. (In my day, we'd've thought a cabbage was a luxury... one of the better prizes...) Gripping stuff. The winner, the one who managed to remain three-cabbageless doubtless got a bigger and better prize as a reward.

Times changed, and along came the Krankies (who were, I think it's now been decided by pretty much everyone, execrable - 'Fandabbydosie' (I have no idea if that's spelt right) really did get into the charts... Why?!) and Stu Francis (who delighted in telling us that he could 'crush a grape', 'rip a tissue', and 'jump over a doll's house' - making 'camp' fashionable for the first time since Mr Humphries (of 'Are You Being Served?' fame), and for approximately two minutes). He was pretty awful too.

And along came gunge. There were bucketloads of multi-coloured gunk to tip over people who got things wrong, or messed up or were generally stupid (sounds like the whole show to me, pretty much). I think, actually, that Crackerjack ('Crackerjack!') started off the phenomenon of gunge. Brrrrr.

Chas and Dave wrote the theme tune. That was gunk too.

Ah nostalgia!

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