Never let it be said that Bradley Walsh doesn’t like a challenge.
Last year, the actor and presenter starred in The Larkins, a new take on the novels by HE Bates, which had previously been turned into the hit series The Darling Buds of May. Taking on a role made famous by all-round national treasure David Jason would be a dauting prospect for many actors, but Walsh proved so popular, the period comedy-drama is returning for a new run this autumn.
Perhaps Walsh was feeling confident when he took on The Larkins because he had previous experience of helming a show associated with TV legends thanks to his presenting stint on Blankety Blank.
The much-loved game show started life in America before making the transition to British TV in 1979. It was hosted by Terry Wogan, who stayed at the helm until 1983, when he was succeeded by Les Dawson. The comedian’s deadpan style – and fondness for drawing attention to the less than glittering prizes – proved to be a perfect fit and he stayed with the quiz until 1990.
In 1997, the show was revived with Paul O’Grady’s alter ego Lily Savage at the helm and ran for a further two years.
A one-off Christmas special hosted by David Walliams in 2016 failed to become a series, but then Walsh had a crack at it in 2020, which was followed by a full run in 2021.
It seemed he wasn’t too nervous about taking charge, possibly because he downplayed the importance of his role.
He said: “I’m not feeling the pressure so much, just the fact that I love bit of nostalgic telly and to follow in the footsteps of Sir Terry Wogan and one of my heroes Les Dawson, having worked on the show as a studio warm-up for Les a few times, it’s a thrill for me. I think the show runs itself. I think alongside the celebrity panel and the contestants, I don’t think you bring your own style. I like to work organically so I’m hoping [the panellists] will bring their style to it as well and we can bounce off each other.”
Of course, it also helped that he had a connection with the format – as well as being a warm-up man, he’d also been a panellist during the Savage era.
For anyone who has somehow missed out on all the incarnations, the idea behind the game is pretty simple. Walsh reads out statements with a missing word and invites the contestants to fill in the blanks, which will hopefully match what the celebrities have written down.
In tonight’s opening episode, which was postponed from last week, the contestants will be hoping they’re on the same wavelength as celebs Denise Van Outen, Chris Eubank, Frank Skinner, Vick Hope, Joey Essex and Ellie Simmonds, who is having a big night – she can also be seen taking to the floor on the first Strictly Come Dancing live show.