McMULLEN MARION LOOKS BACK AT THE CELEBRITIES WHO CAME OUT TO PLAY ON FESTIVE TV
DEAR Santa, All I want for Christmas is a TV special with a famous guest star or two.
And when it comes to festive classics, Morecambe and Wise had celebrities almost lining-up to take part in their hugely popular Christmas shows and to appear in the plays wot Ernie wrote.
Conductor Andre Previn’s doomed attempts to get Eric to play Grieg’s Piano Concerto in the 1971 Christmas special, only to be told “I’m playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order” is a comedy classic. Eric himself actually could play the piano having been encouraged to take lessons when he was young by his mother.
Future Star Wars actor Sir Alec Guinness did not mind being the punchline in Morecambe and Wise’s 1980 special.
Eric’s son Stephen recalled how the whole family would gather together on Christmas Day to watch the TV specials every year. “I always remember dad, he used to laugh so much at himself on TV and I always used to wonder ‘Why are you laughing? Because you know what is going to happen next’ but he used to sit there and just laugh his head off. It was great.”
TV tough guy Edward Woodward and film star Margaret Lockwood had a chance to show their comedy skills in a sketch for Thames Television’s 1971 Christmas TV show. It saw the Callan actor at Teddington TV Studios dressed in a parody of the Rank Organisation’ iconic opening gong sequence with Margaret dressed as the Gainsborough Lady.
Meanwhile, ITN newscasters Sandy Gall, Leonard Parkin, Robert Southgate, Reginald Bosanquet, Gordon Honeycombe and Ivor Mills celebrated Christmas on the Russell Harty Show in 1974 with a festive singalong.
“All right, Bazza!” shouted out Del when he spotted Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb in The Only Fools And Horses 1991 Christmas special, Miami Twice. Barry’s immediate reaction was “Oh, God! There’s always one”.
Cheers star joined Jasper
Powell as bumbling cops Louis and Briggs for a 50-minute seasonal special of BBC comedy The Detectives in 1997. The episode, entitled Go West Old Man, saw the detective team in Canada’s Rocky Mountains on the trail of their boss (George Sewell) after he went AWOL.
John played the owner of a ghost town saloon bar and said: “He’s this insane guy who thinks his bar is still filled with people, even though its boom days are long gone. The Detectives is goofy and that’s the kind of humour I like. Jasper and Robert are great at it. It was fun to do and there was a lot of laughter on set. It was kind of a homecoming for me because giggling was not only allowed but almost encouraged.”
Pirates Of The Caribbean star Johnny Depp was such a fan of The Fast Show that he asked for a cameo spot on the BBC’s 2000 Christmas special and appeared in a Suit You segment with Paul Whitehouse and Mark Williams.
Johnny said: “I’ve never done a sketch so on this show I lost my sketch ‘cherry’. With these guys there’s no way to be funny around them so you just shut up and nod your head. I joined in with the ‘Oohs’ at the end.”
Brad Pitt joined the cast of Friends for the festive season in 2001 playing old school friend Will Colbert who had co-founded the I Hate Rachel Green Club with Ross in high school. His appearance was kept top secret, with TV bosses only teasing that the episode would feature a mystery surprise guest.
Brad was married to Rachel actress Jennifer Aniston at the time and it was only time they two acted together during their marriage.
Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg appeared in the BBC’s 2002 Absolutely Fabulous Christmas special which saw the outrageous Eddie ( Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy ( Joanna Lumley) taking on New York Fashion Week and attempting to track down Eddie’s long lost son, Serge.
The programme also featured appearances by Debbie Harry and Graham Norton.
However, if you are looking for a festive offering packed with celebrity faces then it is hard to beat Alice Through The Looking Box in 1960.
The ITV Christmas fantasy crammed in as many British stars as possible with Spike Milligan as the White Rabbit, comedy duo Mike and Bernie Winters as Tweedledee and Tweedledum and even an appearance by rock singer Marty Wilde.
The cast also included Ronnie Corbett as the Dormouse, TV cook Fanny Craddock as the Duchess and Bob Monkhouse as the Cheshire Cat.
Putting a new spin on writer Lewis Carroll’s famous story, it saw Alice step through a television set into another world, instead of a looking glass.