:: Article

A Sad, Sad Day

By James Daly.

British TV has lost one of its finest stars of the later 80’s and 90’s: Jeremy Beadle , the man with a big personality, a big heart and one small, baby sized hand has died of severe pneumonia at the age of fifty-nine.

Jeremy rose to prominence through the shows Beadle’s About and You’ve Been Framed. The premise of Beadle’s About was that Jeremy, the host, would basically pull mischievous and slightly twattish practical ‘jokes’ on people. This would all be filmed on hidden camera and when the unlucky victim was near to having a nervous breakdown, Jeremy, would very sinisterly pop out of nowhere dressed as a very dodgy-looking copper. The poor bastard on the receiving end of the joke would go absolutely mental at the ‘copper’ and, after a bit more banter, Jeremy would rip off his disguise and everything was okay again. The victim would call Jeremy some bad names at first but then, after he or she had calmed down, they had a hug although Jeremy never shook hands with anyone.

In the late 80’s this was TV gold. At its peak the show drew 15m viewers. How we all laughed when on one show Jeremy staged a mock alien landing in one poor lady’s back garden with a full spaceship and everything. Jeremy, dressed as an alien inside the dodgiest eighties costume ever, came out of the ‘spaceship’ and started to talking to this woman who asked “Does it want to come in and have a a cup of tea?”

It seemed that at the heart of the humour and therefore the attraction of the show was the base cruelty of the jokes. I remember being very young and watching with great anticipation as some poor sod parked his car and went shopping. Whilst the man was inside, Jeremy’s ‘crew’ swapped the car (a brand new Mercedes or something similar) for an exact replica. As the man came out and approached what he believed to be his car, the small-hand-wielding fiend Jeremy blew it up!! The guy who thinks that this is his brand new Mercedes is nearly crying and we, the ‘great’ British public, are pissing ourselves laughing from the comfort of our armchairs. But then of course Jeremy would rip off his disguise and everything would be ok again – “You little tinker you, Jeremy!!!”

Because of the rather cruel nature of his TV shows, he had a rather love-hate relationship with the public. It’s strange, not only did he have a baby hand to contend with but he looked liked the kind of guy who would steal your grandma and sell her for camels or something. But it is said that he raised over 100m pounds for leukaemia and other charities and that, in person, he was a top bloke.

For me personally, I like laughing at other people’s comedy misfortunes so Jeremy’s shows were a massive part of my youth. Indeed, for many people around my and much older, Jeremy has a certain cult status. I remember once, in the back of a taxi in Australia with two friends, we were all quite quiet until someone leaned over and asked me “James, what would you do if Jeremy Beadle started cupping your balls with his baby hand?”

Of course The Hand, something so small that took on a large significance. It’s what we associate Jeremy with when we talk about him and, like him with his mischievous or sneaky prankster ways, it can be viewed as either a bit scary (imagine if he stroked your face with it….) or just merely harmlessly funny. It is easy to joke about it and make fun of it, but hell, he played a lot of tricks on people. Stunted appendage or not, a legend of British TV has left the building.

On final reflection I would like to think that I can give him a true entertainer’s send off and give him a big hand…. I mean a round of applause. Jeremy, we salute you.


James Daly
is a twenty-six year part-time funk and soul DJ and full-time teaching assistant currently living in Tokyo with his wife.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, January 31st, 2008.