It’s that special time of year again, and what could be more Christmassy than a snooker themed game show hosted by a racist? Yes, it’s Big Break, a cracking Saturday night format with a banger of a theme tune (written by Mike Batt and performed by Captain Sensible), memorable catchphrases and engaging gameplay, but unfortunately difficult to enjoy these days if you’re not a young 1990s child, blissfully ignorant of the many, many flaws of its presenter. Luckily, the 1994 celebrity special has a little something extra to hold the modern day Red Dwarf fan’s interest – Craig “Cinzano Bianco” Charles.

Annoyingly, the YouTube video has embedding disabled, but you can click on this attractive picture of Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Tweedletwat:

That, incidentally, is the closest Jim Davidson has ever stood to a Black person.

The main comedy value in the episode, unsurprisingly, comes from the attempts to play snooker in amusing oversized costumes, and the Alice in Wonderland theme epitomises the inherent weirdness that permeates so much 1990s light entertainment in retrospect. It’s full of jokes that fall completely flat, incongruous set pieces and, somewhat unfortunately, repeated uses of a Rolf Harris song. But damn it, I stand by the assertion that this was a top notch game show format, and I’ve always enjoyed John Virgo’s deadpan style and shameless cheating. Plus, John Parrott’s cat costume was later worn by Mark Heap; it was evidently available to any BBC shows titled Big XXXXX.

One further oddity to note: at one point, Craig plugs his forthcoming book The Craig Charles Almanac of Total Knowledge 2. Now, the original masterpiece was released a year earlier in 1993, so this must have been a planned sequel which didn’t materialise – its spiritual successor, The Log, was eventually published in 1997. Plus, it’s confusing to note that this special aired in December 1994, after Craig had been arrested and remanded in July 1994, but before he was acquitted of all charges in March 1995. It seems inconceivable that a major broadcaster would put out a prime time programme featuring someone in that situation nowadays, but I guess 27 years ago was somehow a very different time.

On a more festive note, we’d like to take this opportunity to wish all our listeners slash readers a very Merry Christmas. We’ll be back with our customary review of the last twelve months on New Years Eve.

11 comments on “G&TV: Big Break In Wonderland (27/12/1994)

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  • Happy Christmas all.

    I used to love Big Break. It seems a bit bizarre in hindsight, but it was a format that worked, and in terms of their rapport Jim Davidson and John Virgo were very much the Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman of their day.

  • Question is, is Davidson playing Alexander “Anyone who’s anti-hunting just has a problem with rich people” Armstrong or Richard “Left wing people are all extremists” Osman?

    Crikey, Alexander Armstrong, Richard Osman, Jim Davidson, Rolf Harris and The Log all in one thread. Merry Christmas everyone!

  • I too was a big fan of Big Break, I like a format with a game involved. I liked Bullseye too, another “play a game and be crap or surprisingly good at it” show.

    I always practiced John Virgo’s trick shots on my miniature snooker table as a child, hours of fun.

    It’s shocking how many of the TV shows we grew up watching were fronted by abhorrent people isn’t it.

  • I too was a big fan of Big Break, I like a format with a game involved. I liked Bullseye too, another “play a game and be crap or surprisingly good at it” show.

    Anyone remember Full Swing (I had to look up the name), the golf one presented by Jimmy Tarbuck?

    Merry Christmas one and all!

  • >Plus, it’s confusing to note that this special aired in December 1994, after Craig had been arrested and remanded in July 1994, but before he was acquitted of all charges in March 1995. It seems inconceivable that a major broadcaster would put out a prime time programme featuring someone in that situation nowadays, but I guess 27 years ago was somehow a very different time.

    That is bizarre. I’m amazed that this even flew in the nineties.

    I definitely missed this in the schedules. I occasionally watched Big Break, and by December 1994 I was so RD-obsessed that I’m sure I’d have recorded it for Craig and jumped to all kinds of conclusions that Red Dwarf VII was a GO. (I clearly remember the papers reporting he was acquitted the following March).

    I’m not I can bear to watch this, mind considering the host.

    Merry Christmas and all that jazz.

  • Anyone remember Full Swing (I had to look up the name), the golf one presented by Jimmy Tarbuck?
    Merry Christmas one and all!

    Yes, I think they forgot the fact that Bullseye and Big Break worked because darts and snooker are indoor sports.

    Jim Davidson and John Virgo were indeed a fine choice of pairing to front the show and it helped that, at the time, pretty much every living snooker player from any era agreed to appear. I’m not sure that would be so easy nowadays.

  • That’s weird about them not shelving the episode given Craig’s legal issues, especially considering how many they recorded in advance.

    I realise a dressed-up Christmas special is a bit different, but by 1998 they were still airing episodes recorded in 1996, 1999 had episodes from 1997, and some of the 1998 recordings didn’t air until as late as 2001… at which point they recorded another run, having taken a whole three years off!

    (Please don’t ask me why I know any of this, haha)

  • (Please don’t ask me why I know any of this, haha)

    Its listed on the Big Break wikipedia page.

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