Let Me Entertain You (BBC2, 2006-2007)
This is just about a game show, although it’s more of a talent/variety-style show. I’m not usually a big fan of these type of shows, never having had any desire to go anywhere near Britain’s Got Talent, but one of the reasons that I was attracted to this one was because it was hosted by Brian Conley, with his usual cheeky charm that I have enjoyed over the years. And we mustn’t forget that Shakespear’s Sister made a song with the show’s title long before Robbie Williams came along.
The idea of Let Me Entertain You (not to be confused with the later ITV series) was that every edition would usually feature about five or six variety acts, who were given the chance to do their thing on TV. Now they could be the usual thing, such as dancers or magicians, or they could be a little more unusual, such as burlesque singers or sword swallowers. Naturally they would range from terrific to terrible. They have up to three minutes to perform their act in front of the studio audience.
All of them have a button, and they press this when they have become bored with the act. When this total reaches 50%, wherever they are up to, they have to leave the stage, and sometimes this could be amusingly harsh. So they have to keep people entertained, or pay the price. The incentive for them is that if they last one minute they win £100, for two minutes they win £200, and for all three they win £1,000, along with a trophy in the shape of a “3”.
Another twist is that sometimes an act would actually consist of an interview where someone who had an unusual hobby spoke to a rather baffled Brian. If they get voted off, the chair that they are sat in magically disappears. And one act is surprised by Brian, having been set up by their friends to take part. Also featuring as co-host was Christine Bleakley in some early TV appearances, who would talk to some of the acts behind the scenes in “the dressing room of dreams” about what the experience was like for them.
The act who had performed the best on the show (along with the best runner-up) would go through to the weekly final, and then the winners of these would go into the grand final at the end of the series to determine the overall champion. Let Me Entertain You didn’t really take itself too seriously, and there were some good moments, but there were changes for the second series that made the show less quirky.
The length was reduced from 45 minutes to 30, meaning that fewer acts took part, and the interview segment was also dropped, meaning that it just about turned into a run-of-the-mill singing and dancing contest. As it turned out, both series were won by 13-year-old male singers, so if you really do want to go far in showbusiness, be a 13-year-old male singer, that seemed to be the lasting message from the show.