Although It's A
Knockout as a regular series had departed British television screens in
May 1982, the British public had been fed occasional morsels of Knockout
in the form of Christmas specials (although one had been aborted) and
Knockout Star Gala shows since that time. Audience figures proved that
there was still a significant audience for the series and in 1984, the BBC
relented and brought it back as a series in a somewhat revamped version which
they called Anything Goes (no doubt remembering the version they had
licensed to America in 1975 called Almost Anything Goes).
To keep costs down, the entire series would be staged indoors
at the Circus Ring beneath the world famous Blackpool Tower in Lancashire.
Producer Geoff Wilson put a spin on the choice of venue when talking to
Judi Goodwin of Radio Times magazine: "(It's) Knockout without
the goose-pimples." The venue had previously been used in 1978 for It's A
Miners Knockout and the innovation used then - the dry arena which could be
quickly transformed into a shallow pool - was again a major feature of the
programme each week.
Teams would be ten-strong and composed of professionals and
their families from one area of Britain taking on the same from another.
Although in the days of Knockout, teams tended to treat the games as a matter
of life and death, Geoff Wilson encouraged a more light-hearted approach to
Anything Goes and discouraged it all being taken too seriously. "One of
the team members told us he'd trained on fags and cider," he told Radio
Times, "and we encourage this attitude."
Despite this ethos, the series still required a referee as the
teams would occasionally resort to mildly underhand tactics as their naturally
competitive streaks came through and the BBC called on the British former
Olympic gymnast, Suzanne Dando, who had competed in the 1980 Summer Olympics
The games action was interspersed with speciality circus acts
from around the world and a fourteen-strong song and dance troupe of small
girls, the Coco-Tots, who dressed up, sang and danced in true Shirley Temple
fashion. It must have pleased some of the audience as the troupe were retained
through the full 1984 series.
The themes of each programme followed the professions of the
teams, with some games being inspired instead by the circus. One of the
challenges for the production team was to convince competitors to dress up:
"How do you convince a miner from South Wales that if he appears in public in
a sequinned leotard (that) he's not going to lose his macho image?" wondered
Geoff Wilson. The solution was surprisingly straightforward: "You see them
sneak out into the ring at rehearsal looking embarrassed. Then once they get
down to the task at hand, their inhibitions disappear and you can tell they're
loving every minute."
The series host was Keith Chegwin, who would go on in 1999 to
inherit the mantle from Stuart Hall of It's A Knockout for real, but
here ably demonstrated his suitability for the role. Then most famous for his
regular appearances on Saturday morning show The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
and his own music vehicle, Cheggers Plays Pop, he abandoned his normal
t-shirt and jeans look and instead donned top hat and tails.
Summing up for Radio Times, Geoff Wilson commented
that Anything Goes was not intended as mind-elevating stuff to please
the intelligentsia - it was simply a bit of harmless fun to relax in front of
after a hard day. He was sure a certain proportion of the audience would see
it as a guilty pleasure and never admit to actually watching it: "When I
worked on Knockout," he said, "people used to sidle up to me and say,
'I don't usually watch your programme but I did happen to catch it last week.'
Then they'd start a discussion and relate the details of every game in the
series and you realised they were hooked and never missed it!"
1984 ended with the last of the original series Christmas
specials and, like Anything Goes, this was also staged at The Blackpool
Tower, but in the Ice Drome instead of the Tower Circus. This programme was
notable for the brief return to Jeux Sans Frontières competition by a
West German team after their departure from the series in 1980. This proved to
be the final appearance by a team from that country in the series.