B-b-b-b bullshit!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 by

Last Wednesday, I was in a smoke-filled room with Mike Reid. I was interviewing him to tie-in with UKTV Gold’s next EastEnders themed weekend, “Secrets and Lies”, which kicks off on June 3.

The encounter was everything it should have been: Mike was sat there with his equally heavily-set, sovereign ring-sporting manager. Both had fags on the go, and were munching their way through a platter of bacon sandwiches.

Naturally, we ended up talking about Doctor Who (he’d shaved his chest to play a Thal opposite Peter Cushing, and William Hartnell had kicked up a fuss about not being involved) and Runaround.

Colin Nutley (now a director, seemingly working mostly in Sweden) had bought the game show format from the US – where it had been huge – and employed Mike as the host having been at Pye Records when the comedian/actor was recording his 1975 chart hit, Ugly Duckling.

“I fell off the charts, straight into Runaround,” remembered Mike, “which was a massive hit. Massive hit. It was wipeout time. We had 74% – 74%! – of the viewing public.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he continued. “The construction of the show was five kids from one school, five kids from another. Half the audience was one school, and the other half the other. So, when the kids knew the answers, they used to shout out, ‘Wahheeey! It’s number one!’ or ‘A, B or C’ or whatever.

“I had to keep them quiet, otherwise we wouldn’t have a show. I was not nice to the kids, but that was just part of me being ‘Mike Reid the comedian’, because when I was growing up, as a compere I had to shut-up everyone in the audience before we could put the show on. So I became aggressive, which even nowadays I still am on stage. It made me an individual, away from the comics who are just static, with their arm leaning on the mic stand.

“I had a great deal of respect for those kids, though. And, of course, if I’m in London, about every two weeks at least, I’ll get someone coming up to me saying, ‘I was on Runaround with you’.

“It was the forerunner of kids’ programmes nowadays. The forerunner. The first to have coloured balls, lights, big prizes.”

As for the rumour, reported to TV Cream, that once the cameras stopped rolling, the best prizes were taken back from the contestants, Mike declared: “Bullshit. Total and utter bullshit.”

“You’re getting mixed up with Crackerjack!” chipped in Mr Manager.


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