In this thought-provoking series for BBC Four, comedian Frank Skinner and music broadcaster and presenter Suzy Klein explore the history of British popular entertainment in the 100 years before the arrival of television.
From the music halls of the Victorian age to the variety theatres of the 20th century, they uncover what kept us entertained through technological advances, two world wars, and an ‘American Invasion’.
In each episode Frank and Suzy not only investigate the big acts from the era, they become them – recreating one act each in a final performance. They learn what it took to become a star in a world without TV, immerse themselves in the music and costumes of the time and discover how much our tastes have changed – or not – through a century of live entertainment.
Episode 1 Thursday 3rd December 9pm BBC4 60 mins
In the first episode Frank Skinner and Suzy Klein explore the birth of Britain’s first mass entertainment industry, the 19th century music hall. They discover the colourful and sometimes dangerous world of its entertainers and get under the skin of some of its greatest stars. They discover more about big household names such as Marie Lloyd and Champagne Charlie, as well as less familiar names – including the eccentric Victorian comic Dan Leno, later copied by Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.
Not only do Frank and Suzy dig into the history of these stars and the world from which they emerged, but they also study their acts and try their hand at performing them at the end of the show.
Episode 2 Thursday 10th December 9pm BBC4 60 mins
In the second episode, Frank Skinner and Suzy Klein explore the golden age of Variety Theatre, which spanned from the start of the 20th Century to the outbreak of the Second World War.
They immerse themselves in the careers of mega-stars including George Formby and Gracie Fields, who both remain household names today. They also get to grips with some lesser-known artists, including La Loie Fuller, a stunningly innovative Chicago-born choreographer and dancer, who took London by storm during the Edwardian era.
Frank and Suzy also attempt to recreate performances from two other stars of the pre-World War 1 era, the Scottish comedian and singer Sir Harry Lauder and the once hugely famous Vesta Tilley, a talented male impersonator.
Episode 3 Thursday 17th December 9pm BBC4 60mins
A further exploration of the history of entertainment in Britain.