The Black and White Minstrel Show (partially found BBC TV series; 1957-1978)

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The Black & White Minstrel Show Title.jpeg

The opening title card for the early 1960s series.

Status: Partially Found

Between 1957 and 1978, the BBC in the United Kingdom broadcast a now largely unseen/lost program called The Black and White Minstrel Show. As part of a variety show, singers would put on blackface paint and perform songs from a variety of genres as part of a modern (for the time) update to the old American Minstrel shows.[1]

The show was extremely popular, getting 21 million viewers at its peak. It would get many awards during its time, including the first-ever Golden Rose of Montreux/Rose d'Or to be awarded in 1961 along with many Golden Discs for creating best-selling soundtrack albums throughout its lifespan.

The show though was particularly controversial for its racial elements; starting from the late 1960s, people would frequently write to the BBC calling for it to be pulled off the air, most notably in 1967 as part of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. It also was not always popular with its performers either: comedian Lenny Henry, who made his television debut in the show in 1976, would go on to state that he regretted acting in it. Conductor George Mitchell also wished to do the show without the controversial makeup. In 1968, he tried "Masquerade" with carnival masks and in 1969, "Music Music Music" with the performers just appearing as themselves. However, neither idea took off.

Notable Editions[edit | edit source]

In the time the show was on the air there were between 180-200 episodes broadcast and below is a sample a few of the more notable editions.

Date Trivia Status
12th December 1964 This episode did a crossover special with Doctor Who where the Daleks invaded the program and took part in dance routines.[2] Lost
25th December 1965 Max Bygraves hosts the show and presents George Mitchell with a Golden Disk celebrating being the first man to ever sell 1 million albums. Partially Found
17th December 1967 One of the first programs in the UK to be broadcast in color. Survives but not available online
28th March 1970 David Prowse appears as a guest star, he would later go on to play Darth Vader in Star Wars. Survives but not available online
7th June 1975 Arthur Lowe Appears portraying his character "Captain Mainwaring" for a Dad's Army themed sequence. Survives but not available online
20th December 1975 The comedian Lenny Henry was forced to appear in this episode by his bosses much to his regret. Survives but not available online
21st July 1978 The final episode released before the show was pulled off the air. Partially Found

Other Editions[edit | edit source]

There are a lot of other clips and recordings that have shown up over the years and here's a list of some of the other ones that have been positively identified and made available.

Date Summary Links
23rd December 1960 The earliest known episode available online and survives with complete audio and video elements intact. Link (Internet Archive)
17th March 1963 Survives as a short audio recording that begins at the end of a comedy routine with two intact musical routines, with one being themed around the Civil War. Link (Internet Archive)
22nd December 1963 This edition survives as complete audio from the 2nd comedy sketch onwards, the opening two music segments have damaged / partially missing audio. Features a routine based on the opera "Lilac Time". Link (Internet Archive)
26th March 1964 Survives as a mostly complete audio recording that begins during the Opening number, Features a parody of the "Song for Europe" TV show Link (Internet Archive)
19th August 1967 The final 10 minutes of this edition survive as an audio recording, this episode is a 10 year anniversary special edition. Link (Youtube)
17th June 1976 Available online as a full audio recording, however a location restricted version with video elements is available on the BFI Screen Online Link (Internet Archive)

Preservation Status[edit | edit source]

In 1978, after 21 years in the air, the BBC ended the television version of the show along with its variants on radio and stage, which lingered until 1989. Existing episodes were not repeated nor issued on home media, with many ending up being wiped along with other BBC shows of the era. This resulted in 100 original episodes lost, with what remained being held under very high amounts of protection with only the occasional clips or audio recordings surfacing now and then.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

A complete episode from 1960.
The audio for the partially found 1965 Max Bygraves special.
Clips featuring the failed non blackface re-boot "Masquerade" from the Timeshift episode "Black and White Minstrels Revisited"
An almost complete copy of the final episode from 1978.

External Links[edit | edit source]

Reference[edit | edit source]