Superstars

Contents

Host

David Vine & Ron Pickering (1973-85)

John Inverdale & Suzi Perry (2002: Sport Relief special)

Johnny Vaughan & Suzi Perry (2003-5)

Jim Rosenthal & Sharron Davies (2008)

Gabby Logan, Denise Lewis, Iwan Thomas (2012)

Co-hosts

Commentators:
Paul Dickenson (2003-5),
Phil Liggett (2008)

Broadcast

as The Sporting Superstars TWI for BBC1, 31 December 1973 and 26 December 1974

as The Superstars TWI for BBC1, 19 November 1975 to 11 February 1985

as The Junior Superstars TWI for BBC1, 26 December 1981 to 4 February 1985

as International Superstars TWI for BBC1, 1982-4

as Superstars TWI for BBC One, 13 July 2002 to 27 February 2005 (12 episodes in 2 series + 1 special)

as Superstars IMG for five, 11 July to 29 August 2008 (8 episodes in 1 series)

as Superstars 2012, IMG Sports Media for BBC One, 29 December 2012

Synopsis

Marvellous sporting competition where the nation's favourite sports stars (and in the recent remake, slightly past-it sports stars that you've still heard of and females) battle-it-out good naturedly to find out who is the best all round sporting athelete, whilst answering those all important proto-Top Trumps questions like "who is better at swimming - boxer Barry MacGuigan or footballer John Barnes?"

In the recent remake the producers pull each athelete out their perceived best event (i.e. there's no way they're going to let a world class rower do the kayaking, for example) and they pull themselves out of another. Points awarded from first to worst (10, 7, 4, 2, 1, 0) over the eight events and the winners and highest scorers go through to the grand final which adds new events such as archery and tennis. The classic eight though are (in no particular order):

  • 100m sprint
  • Freestyle swimming
  • Kayaking
  • The Gym Tests (the event that judo master Brian Jacks excelled at, a minute of squat thrusts followed by a minute of dips)
  • 800m
  • Target golf (five goes to chip a ball as close to the hole as possible, replaced by the shot putt in series two which is massively annoying because we think the show needs a proper game of skill.)
  • Football (dribble round some cones then get past the keeper, up to three attempts, ties broken by time)
  • Mountain biking (in the seventies around a track, in the modern remake up a steep hill).

The remake filmed in La Manga, with Johnny Vaughan and Suzi Perry at the helm, felt nicely modern in presentation whilst keeping many a nod to the past in showing clips of classic Superstars in between events and keeping the original theme music and logo.

Image:Superstars_new_presenters.jpgJohnny and Suzi. Sounds like a musical, that.

Despite fairly decent ratings, the BBC revival only lasted two series. In 2008, Five revived it again, but in a curious version more in keeping with the 1980s Superteams spin-off, featuring four teams competing in a league format. Clearly recognising that the bar had been raised by setting the previous revival in sunny EspaƱa, the new version topped all earlier efforts by relocating to the highly glamorous state-of-the-art K2 sports facility in glorious... Crawley. Oh well, at least their carbon footprint's reduced somewhat.

There was another in 2012, in which sixteen stars of Team GB at that year's London Olympics went head to head to find out which man and woman were the ultimate Olympian. This show, like the 2002 revival and many from the 1980s run, was filmed in Bath.

Champions

1973: David Hemery (athletics)
1974: John Conteh (boxing)
1976: David Hemery (athletics)
1977: Tim Crooks (rowing)
1978: Brian Jacks (judo)
1979: Brian Jacks (judo)
1981: Keith Fielding (rugby league) - also "Challenge of Champions" winner
1982: Brian Hooper (athletics)
1983: Brian Hooper (athletics)
1984: Garry Cook (athletics)
1985: Robin Brew (swimming)
2002: Austin Healey (rugby) - Sport Relief special
2003: Men - Du'aine Ladejo (athletics), Women - =1 Zoe Baker (swimming) & Lesley McKenna (snowboarding)
2005: Men - Alain Baxter (skiing), Women - Zoe Baker 2012: Men - Anthony Joshua (boxing), Women - Helen Glover (rowing)

Key Moments

For a show with such a distinguished history, one of the few things that ever gets bought up is THAT bit where Kevin Keegan falls off his bike.

File:Superstars_kevinfallsoffbike.jpg
Kevin Keegan at a precarious angle

David Vine (and later, Suzi Perry) used to rather annoyingly demand reactions from the competitors the moment they'd crossed the finish line in most events - surely they should have been given the chance to get their breath back?!

Theme music

It's called Heavy Action, fact fans. Written by Johnny Pearson, it was subsequently picked up by ABC in the USA for their "Monday Night Football" show. And a damn fine tune it is, too.

Trivia

Point of pedantry - the original series was actually called The Superstars (hence its companion show The Superteams), but the revival was just called Superstars.

The format was sold to the US, Ireland, Sweden and Canada. There was also a European version from 1975 to 1980, and a World version from 1977 to 1982 - the last of which was won by British pole vaulter Brian Hooper. These shows and other International one-offs and Junior Superstars series were all broadcast on the BBC by the same Vine/Pickering match-up.

Boxer Joe Frazier nearly drowned on the first US series of Superstars because, after nearly drowning in the pool, he had to admit that he'd never swum before. Frazier said "How was I to know I couldn't [do it] unless I tried it?"

The Superstars was one of the first programmes to be axed when Michael Grade took over as controller of BBC1. Its cancellation was part of a raft of axings by the new broom who killed two birds with one stone by delivering the knockout punch [that's enough mixed metaphors - Ed.] to Miss Great Britain and Britain's Strongest Man on the same day. And that was before he'd even started on Doctor Who!

A spin-off book entitled 'Shape Up With The Superstars' was published in 1985, featuring profiles of and interviews with a number of competitors from both 'Superstars' and 'Superteams'. These included champions Robin Brew, Garry Cook (along with his wife and fellow-athlete, Kathy Cook), Brian Hooper and Brian Jacks, and other contestants, such as Duncan Goodhew, Andy Ruffell, Annabel Croft, Neil Adams, Virginia Leng (Holgate at the time) and Bryan Robson. The book also featured the sports stars' favourite recipes for meals that were most appropriate to their lifestyles and training (and very good many of the recipes were, too).

Merchandise

The Best of Superstars (DVD, 2003)

Web links

BBC Official Site, where amongst other things you can find out the winners of all the series.

See also

Not to be confused with the 2012 musical theatre show Superstar.

Weaver's Week on the 2003 and 2008 revivals.

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