Surprise Surprise (ITV, 1984-2001, 2015)
Cilla Black is someone who had a successful pop music career throughout the 60s (even having some chart-topping singles), but her hits soon faded away, and there wasn’t much heard about her for a while. But she returned rather spectacularly from the doldrums in the mid-80s, and became famous all over again, this time as a TV host, and she is always going to be associated with two long-running shows on ITV.
One of them is game show Blind Date, and this is the other one. Surprise Surprise (not Cilla’s Surprise Surprise, no) was simply a show about surprises, reunions, and so on. The dreams of several people, even though they didn’t realise it, were about to come true, right in front of our eyes. Cilla would would sometimes phone people, arrive at their house, or even meet them in the studio.
It would seem that by bellowing “it’s Cilla ‘ere” at them, she could be instantly identified by anybody. You know your favourite pop group, who you’ve always wanted to meet, and rather conveniently have a new single out at the moment? Well now you can. There were also several birthday parties with a difference, and much more. But even Cilla couldn’t do it all on her own though.
Although the line-up would change over the series, there was a trusty team who would help out, usually including Christopher Biggins, Bob Carolgees, and Gordon Burns. Other features included Searchline. Are there any people who you were good friends with about 50 years ago, but you suddenly feel that you want to see them again? This show could help you out.
But the thing that most people remember Surprise Surprise for is the big climax, when there would be a touching family reunion. Cilla would say “you know your relative who now lives in Australia?”, which some felt could be seen as code for “they hated you so much they went to the other side of the world to get away from you?”. Well guess who’s over there. Everyone would be so overcome, Cilla would perform a song to end things. By ‘eck, chuck.
But then in the later series, they changed the closing song, and some viewers insist that this was the moment that TV as a whole, not just this show, went rubbish. At least it wasn’t like the big changes that were made to Blind Date. I suppose you could say that all of this rowdiness was LWT at its best really, that’s why they’re still home of the hits.
Surprise Surprise ran for over 15 years, and was usually shown on a Friday evening, or a Sunday. There was also a memorable parody in the ITV sitcom Once In A Lifetime, and a repeat run on Granada Plus. After the regular series ended in 1997, one-off specials continued for a while, and the final one was shown 12 years after being made (it’s a long story). Let’s not think about the revival in more recent years though.