The YouTube Files – Stars In Their Eyes unaired pilot.

Stars In Their Eyes (1989)

Being a fan of Stars In Their Eyes (well the series hosted by Leslie Crowther and Matthew Kelly, let’s not think about the later specials and the revival), I had read that there was an unaired pilot made, and I have been interested in seeing that. The good news is that this recently turned up on YouTube, so credit goes to the uploader “Copied Right”.

The pilot is rather different to the familiar format that ran for over 15 years. Firstly, the host was Chris Tarrant. Now as much as I’ve enjoyed his hosting style over the years, I’ve never really been a big fan of his game shows (beyond Who Wants To Be A Millionaire of course), although he always puts a lot of energy into them. And of course, by the time the show did come to ITV in 1990, he had gone. vlcsnap-00001

The basic idea was the same, with ordinary people being transformed into popular singers, and the studio audience deciding who the winner is. There was a different opening sequence and set design, definitely not as classy or shiny as what we’re familiar with. Chris also insisted that this was the sixth edition of the series, although I’m fairly sure there was only one pilot made. Already into the final (supposedly) was Peter the plumber as… Frank Sinatra! vlcsnap-00003

This version was half-an-hour long, and featured four contestants, instead of the usual five. When the contestants were introduced, they stood on the stage, which featured some things that were linked to their work, as if to emphasise how ordinary they were, and that will make their pop star transformation all the more remarkable (this idea was also used in the early series). Just who will they be? vlcsnap-00004

One major difference in the format is that after they announce who they will be (with the catchphrase not in place yet), they then walk over to a rack containing lots of costumes that will help them complete their look. I very much doubt that this is as spontaneous as they make it out to be though. They then go through the doors (not particularly “famous” as yet though). vlcsnap-00007

Then they return, go down some stairs, and walk over to a rather small stage to sing live. Their behind the scenes transformation probably took much longer than it seems. Then the studio audience wave banners including “We Love You, Shirley!”. After all the contestants have performed, the studio audience then vote for their favourite (again, this doesn’t look very authentic at this stage), maybe if they got a full series they would install the proper voting technology (they could’ve borrowed the keypads from Chris’s other game show Everybody’s Equal). vlcsnap-00008

The winner progresses to the grand final, and finishes the show by performing again, as lots of people gather round to offer their applause. In the pilot, the winner was Carol as Alison Moyet (not the same woman was the overall series champion in 1993 as Moyet though). Can you believe it, just a few minutes ago, she was a plain old cleaner, now she’s tonight’s winner. Sometimes, dreams really can come true. vlcsnap-00009

This pilot of Stars In Their Eyes was fascinating to watch. I wonder why Chris didn’t take part in the series, but he did have lots of other shows on the go. Little did they realise at the time that the format (with a few changes that I think were for the better, creating a much more polished show) would be popular on ITV for so many years.

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special.

Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special (ITV, 1994)

It’s time to have a look back at another Christmas special, well it’s that time of year again. This special was hosted by Matthew Kelly, who had become the new host in 1993, and left in 2004. Although Stars In Their Eyes can be classed as a game show, this special didn’t contain a competitive element, as some of the most memorable performers were invited back to go through those famous doors again and bring us some festive cheer. It was much more interesting than the endless celebrity specials the show eventually got bogged down in. vlcsnap-00092

Matthew wore a rather spectacular waistcoat even by his own standards. It was clear that this was a special occasion, as there was a live studio orchestra, who usually only appeared for the series grand final. There were also plenty of decorations around, and the studio audience had their party hats ready. You’d be seeing musical stars perform together that you’d never previously thought possible, partly because they weren’t the real singers, but you’ve probably realised that. Here’s some of the highlights. vlcsnap-00094

As we’ll see, it’s not only the singers that we are going to see on stage, because one performance includes a nativity scene. This really is going to be an exciting show, and we are then offered the unique combination of Madonna and Cilla Black, it is a shame that they never really did do an album together, I’m sure many people will think after seeing this. Matthew promised us that this will be a special with all the trimmings, and it certainly seems like it. vlcsnap-00093

Then we have a Cliff Richard impersonator with his take on “Mistletoe And Wine”, which would you believe was the biggest-selling single in the UK in 1988. This was still many years before “The Millennium Prayer” came along. Then it’s time to get ready to rock as the likes of Meat Loaf and Billy Idol take to the stage to do their thing while Elton John whips out his piano, and everybody really is in party mood now. vlcsnap-00095

How can you finish off such a special? Well you bring on Elvis, the King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, being portrayed in his young pre-hamburgers days, alongside none other than Bing Crosby. Well they don’t really make them like that any more. And then everybody gathers round at the end to say a big thank you and wish viewers a Happy New Year, as Matthew opens a big bottle of champagne and promises us that he will be back with a new series soon, which is how all specials should end. vlcsnap-00097

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes Champion Of Champions.

Stars In Their Eyes Champion Of Champions (ITV, 1999)

This is another variation on the popular singing contest Stars In Their Eyes. After the end of the 10th series in 1999, the decision was made to have the ten series winners compete against one another to determine who was the best of them all from the past decade in a special live edition shown on ITV in October 1999 that was almost two hours long and I remember watching it at the time. Matthew Kelly was the host and he wore his fanciest bow-tie for this big occasion. vlcsnap-00005

This edition was a sort-of deluxe version of a grand final, and all ten of the series winners took part, from singers as Shirley Bassey who won the first series in 1990 to Chris De Burgh who won the most recent series in 1999, and they went through those famous doors to be transformed into their singing idol one final time, with their performance accompanied by a live orchestra. vlcsnap-00062

Also taking part were singers performing as Nat King Cole (1991), Patsy Cline (1992), Alison Moyet (1993), Marti Pellow (1994 and 1996, yes, there were two singers who won as the Wet Wet Wet frontman, viewers seemingly couldn’t get enough of him), Bobby Darin (1995), Olivia Newton-John (1997), and Neil Diamond (1998). vlcsnap-00075

Everyone who took part was also given a small silver trophy to acknowledge their success, and we also discovered what they had all be up to since becoming a champion. Also, the specially invited studio audience consisted of the contestants’ friends and family, plus some celebrities, who mostly seemed to be from the cast of Coronation Streetvlcsnap-00023

After everyone had performed, the phone-lines were then opened for about an hour, and you could even vote through their fancy new website. Who would the ITV viewers determine as the winner? Matthew’s virtual friend Hayley revealed the results. It turned out to be Ian Moor whose performance of Chris De Burgh’s 1986 chart-topper “The Lady In Red” received over 480,000 votes and he won by a big margin, with more than double the votes of the second-placed contestant, winning him the main trophy and a lot of applause. He was rather pleased. I thought that this was the edition where the man himself joined Ian on stage to congratulate him on his success, but that was actually when he performed again at the 2000 grand final. vlcsnap-00002

Stars In Their Eyes was a long-running show and there were several more variations on the format over the years, including lots of celebrity specials, a children’s series, and even a version featuring singers from across Europe, along with the revival a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t as big a fan of those versions, this edition was definitely one of the highlights of the show’s run.

The YouTube Files – A classic Stars In Their Eyes moment.

Stars In Their Eyes (ITV, 1994)

Recently I wrote a blog piece about when I discovered something about the pop group Bananarama that really blew my mind, if you haven’t read it yet, you should! Whilst putting the piece together I was reminiscing about Siobhan Fahey’s other group, top goth-rockers Shakespear’s Sister, and when trying to track down some more information, I had an odd thought: “were they ever done on Stars In Their Eyes?”. As far as I know, people could only take part individually, performing as solo artists or the frontman or woman from groups, I’m not aware of duos being able to appear, so I thought it was rather unlikely, oh well, it would’ve been good but it was just a thought, it doesn’t matter. vlcsnap-01020

I’ve already written about Stars In Their Eyes on here and I’m sure you remember how it all works, the main elements being Matthew Kelly and his waistcoats, people coming on stage to perform as their pop idol for five minutes of fame, an entertaining Saturday night show on ITV throughout the 90s. When I was fiddling about on Google recently, I noticed an image of a YouTube video thumbnail of what appeared to be Matthew welcoming two women to the stage. I thought that duos didn’t take part. Then I thought, well, two young women, performing as a duo, how many successful female pop duos were there in the early-90s… wait a moment, they’re not going to be… are they? You are kidding me. vlcsnap-01018

So I tracked down the video to watch on YouTube (in fuzzy YouTube-o-Vision, but it’s better than nothing for now), and Emma and Julie who both work in a pub in Oswestry, Shropshire (who can also do a great impression of Zig and Zag) went through those famous doors, and well shut my face, they only did come back out as Siobhan and Marcella didn’t they? I know that Stars In Their Eyes liked to feature a wide variety of pop acts, from 50s crooners to 90s indie blokes, but I never expected this, the show was about to get a little weird. And of course they go on to perform the 1992 chart-topping blockbuster “Stay”. The performance is also rather faithful to the famous award-winning video, there’s even a dead man (well probably) wheeled on to the stage to crank up the emotion. (I should also point out that this edition is from 1994 by which point Siobhan and Marcella had gone their separate ways.) vlcsnap-01050

How did they do? Well they definitely didn’t do too badly at imitating them, as if there could ever be another, and then at the end Matthew kindly congratulated the ladies on their performance, the experience really had been a dream come true for them. They didn’t win though however, they were beaten by Jim Reeves who went into the final. I am so thrilled to discover that it actually happened though, two ladies wanting to do that on ITV prime-time in what must be the most bizarre moment in the 16-year history of Stars In Their Eyes, I can only wonder what viewers made of it. I’ll try and stop going on about Shakespear’s Sister now, I really should buy their album one day… 

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EXTRA! They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so along with Stars In Their Eyes, here are three other occasions that I’m aware of where people donned the old make-up to imitate Shakespear’s Sister in various TV shows in the early-90s. First, the most famous one is by French and Saunders (with Dawn French as Siobhan and Jennifer Saunders as Marcella), who memorably parodied their videos “Goodbye Cruel World”, “Stay”, and “I Don’t Care”. (In 1989 French and Saunders did a parody of Bananarama for Comic Relief as Lananeeneenoonoo, With Dawn French as Keren, Jennifer Saunders as Sara and Kathy Burke as Jacquie. Also, Marcella Detroit appeared in two episodes of Jennifer Saunders’s sitcom Absolutely Fabulous). Second, in the sketch show The Mary Whitehouse Experience, there was a parody by Robert Newman (as Marcella) and David Baddiel (as Siobhan), who were introduced as “that equally talented vocal partnership”, the joke being that Siobhan literally honked her way through the songs and was outshone by Marcella. Best of all, proof that they had become a cultural reference was when the video for the 1993 Christmas Number One by Noel Edmonds’s mate Mr Blobby also featured a parody of the “Stay” video. Now there’s a legacy to be proud of! vlcsnap-01057

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes.

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. vlcsnap-01446

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. Stars In Their Eyes 13

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. Stars In Their Eyes 2

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…”. Stars In Their Eyes 11

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. vlcsnap-01447

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.