Stars In Their Eyes (ITV, 1990-2006, 2015)
Stars In Their Eyes was of course the musical talent contest where ordinary people had the chance to perform as their favourite musician for the night. The show got off to something of a quiet start, Chris Tarrant hosted an unaired pilot in 1989, but when the show finally launched in 1990 it was hosted by Leslie Crowther, his first presenting role after the end of The Price Is Right.
Every week five people from across the country would take part. They would have a brief interview with Leslie about their life before they announced who they would be impersonating. They would then go through the show’s famous doors, and walk back out of them transformed into the star of their choice. They would then walk on to the stage to sing live one of the star’s most famous songs, which always pleased the studio audience.
At the end of this, the studio audience would then vote for their favourite performance. They were also told that they had to vote on how much that thought the contestants sounded like the star they were imitating, not how much they looked like them, although the makeup work was impressive. The winner then went into the final, with again the studio audience voting for the overall series winner.
In 1993 when it became clear that Leslie Crowther would be unable to continue as host, he was replaced by Matthew Kelly, and thanks to his presenting style the show had an increase in popularity, just like what had happened when Matthew became the second of host of game show You Bet! This was also thanks to a few changes to the format.
From Matthew’s second series, every show was now 45 minutes long, giving us a little more time to get to know the contestants. Matthew always helped settle them in by insisting that they were the stars of the show, and he always referred to them as the “star guests” instead of contestants. They would also reveal who they would be with the now famous catchphrase “Tonight, Matthew, I am going to be…”.
Another change was the final. This would now be shown live which meant that the viewers at home could now vote for the winner, and Matthew would always whip out his sparkliest waistcoat for the occasion. They would also manage to fit an orchestra on stage too. I remember that one of these finals was on my birthday and watching it was very exciting as there would be a huge amount of votes and everyone wanted to know who the winner would be. It was often someone impersonating Marti Pellow. There was also the occasional special, and some merchandise was released, including a VHS and board game. Stars In Their Eyes also regularly achieved good ratings and won some awards too.
After about a decade Matthew decided to leave the show, at which point he was replaced by Cat Deeley. Again, by this point there were some more changes to the format, the show was now an hour long but it was a little past its best by the point, not helped by the endless celebrity specials, and Stars In Their Eyes finally came to an end in 2006 after 16 years. This year though there was a brief revival which unfortunately was fairly useless.
Among the things that made Stars In Their Eyes enjoyable was that it really did make the contestants feel like stars. Also, the show always attempted to have something of a diversity of music stars represented. On the same show you could get impersonations of stars from indie music, country music, and pop music, and just about every famous name from the 1950s from the present day was featured. It has been good seeing repeats of the early series on Challenge in more recent years too. The show always tried its best to be entertaining and was a great watch, unlike some other musical talent contests on ITV in more recent years that I can think of.