07 Jul 1973 – The Network Pilot

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The Mighty Atom (Maureen Moreland). Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

On 7th July 1973, ATV decided to try New Faces with a wider TV audience, but this time with a new host. Out went Leslie Crowther and in came ATV Today presenter Derek Hobson, however the regional TV stations decided to air the show at a time to suit their schedules;

Southern – 10:45pm
Midlands – 7:45pm
London – 5:15pm
Anglia & Granada – 9:40pm

So if you lived in the Midlands, you still had time to call a friend or south coast relative on their new grey and white Trimphone to help them decide whether to stay up late to watch the seven new acts that competed in this revamped pilot episode.

The panel was reduced to just three but managed to retain Noele Gordon and Clive James from the original pilot and they were joined by Theatrical Producer Dickie Hurran, a fine mixture of television, theatre and critique if ever I saw one, or so you would think.

The panel failed to impress TV reviewer John Stirling (The Stage, 12 July 1973) who thought Hurran was disappointing, Noele Gordon was gave little in the way of useful advice and James was totally irrelevant. With Hurran being cheered, James being booed by the studio audience, Noele Gordon was stuck in the middle being professionally charming.

So who were the seven lucky acts to face the ‘pantomime’ panel hoping to make a name for themselves on this fine Saturday evening;

  • The Country Cousins (Country & Western group) –  from Kent
  • Finn and Jones – (musical comedy impressionists) –  from Leeds
  • Doris Gill -(jazz singer) – from Wigan
  • Danny and Dereth – (vocal duo) – from Liverpool
  • Peter de Wint – (magician) – from York
  • The Mighty Atom (Maureen Moreland) – (musical comedy singer) – from Nottingham

And the show winner was;

  • Trevor Chance – (singer) from Newcastle, who sang in the style of Jack Jones.

28 year-old Trevor had been spotted by Michael Grade, son of theatrical agent Leslie Grade and nephew of ATVs managing director Lew Grade, and he had injected a £10,000 promotional drive into launching his career.

The musical backing was provided by the Johnny Patrick Big Band. The show was produced by Les Cocks and Directed by Dicky Leeman.

The acts were allowed to take their cheering supporters into the recording and viewers were invited to phone-in with their choice of best act.

Comedy double act Finn and Jones. Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board.

Comedy double act Finn and Jones were funnyman and musician Gwyn Jones and his straight man and musicial partner Austin ‘Ozzie’ Finn. They had been performing together since the early 1970s after both being with a number of different groups in the north of England.

Having rehearsed their impression of Opportunity Knocks Hughie Green which then lead them into a very funny routine of the Flowerpotmen, Bill and Ben, the duo were told they needed to change their act just ten minutes before the actual recording took place.

Although they had rehearsed the routine for the cameras several times the New Faces production team left it late to decide they did not want any reference to the rival show so the section had to go. Finn and Jones considered withdrawing from the show but were eventually persuaded to continue but with an altered routine. As the show was recorded in advance of the broadcast the pair unfortunately didn’t get to watch it as when it aired they were performing in a Weymouth Summer Season with the Ted Rogers show.

In January 1974 Finn and Jones were performing in pantomime in Hull with local performer Ronnie Hilton. In the production of Jack and the Beanstalk the duo played the Court Heralds and were responsible for handling the pantomime cow. In May 1974 Finn and Jones were installed as late headliners in the Allan Blackburn summer show Ragtime. The original headline act, American comedy and dance entertainer George Holmes, had withdrawn just fourteen days before the eighteen week run was due to begin. The duo were joined in the line-up by midreader Stephen Wells, who appeared on New Faces in series two only a few months earlier, and vocalist Kenny Day who would go on to win a show in series six of New Faces some years later.

In August 1974 the comedy duo were on the supporting bill at the Granville Theatre, Ramsgate where the headline act was Freddie ‘Parrot-Face’ Davies. Also supporting on that show was vocalist Elaine Simmons, who had won the first show of series one of New Faces.

In July 1975 Finn and Jones were the victims of a robbery when after a show in Coventry. They collected their fee and placed the envelope containing £80 in their suitcase but by the time they got back to Manchester the money was missing and they called the Coventry police. A seventeen year-old, who worked at the Coventry venue collecting glasses, admitted talking the money when he helped load the cases into the car and was subsequently fined £50 plus £10 costs.

December 1976 saw Finn and Jones back in pantomime, performing again in Jack and the Beanstalk, this time at the Theatre Royal in Bath where Frankie Howerd took the lead role. The following December the pair took the title of Pub Entertainer of the North of England and appeared at the Lakeside Country Club final of the Chef & Brewer Pub Entertainer of the Year Contest. In the final the group Canned Rock, who made two New Faces appearances in the same year under the name Candy Rock, claimed the £500 second prize.

By the early 1980s Austin ‘Ozzie’ Finn had left and been replaced by Garry John, however the duo kept the original name of Finn and Jones. The new pairing won the £1,000 first prize at the Tetley’s Brewery Search for a Star talent contest held in Southport in October 1982. They were last to take the stage and performed a ‘break-up’ routine where Garry was introduced as an American singing star only to be interrupted by the down-trodden figure of a British lad complete with a Union Jack cap.

An article from The Stage (6 September 1973) makes reference to Peters & Lee appearing on New Faces to receive a Gold Disc from comedian Mike Goddard. This gold disc would have been to recognise the 800,000 sales of their debut single Welcome Home (UK number one in July 1973) and based on the date of the article I can only assume that they were the guest act on this pilot show.

Credit: Thanks to Gwyn Jones for the additional information about the appearance of Finn and Jones on this show.

4 thoughts on “07 Jul 1973 – The Network Pilot

  1. The comedy double act FINN AND JONES who appeared on the pilot show of New Faces were told to change their act 10 minutes before the actual recording. Part of their rehearsed routine was a skit on “Opportunity Knocks” which was an impression of Hughie Greene and sponsor leading in to a very funny routine of BILL AND BEN THE FLOWERPOT MEN. They had rehearsed this for the camera throughout the entire day but eventually told to cut it just prior to recording as the New Faces team did not want any reference to Opportunity Knocks – a show that they were in direct competition with. A shame really because this was considered to be one of the funniest and well liked part of their routine for that day. Finn and Jones did consider pulling out of the show at this point but were cajoled in to going ahead.
    I am the JONES part of this write up and would love to see a video/dvd of this. We were in Summer Season in Weymouth in the Ted Rogers show at the time of transmission and never saw it.

    Like

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