Cilla Black is to host a new series for UKTV’s ‘oldies’ station Yesterday. The former Surprise! Surprise! presenter has also spoken about Holly Willoughby taking over the ITV classic.

Cilla’s Unswung Sixties will look at the real story of Britain’s popular culture in a decade synonymous with music and fashion. Drawing on her own memories and experiences Cilla is uniquely placed, as the girl next door turned superstar, to reveal what the great British public was really wearing in the 1960s, what records they bought and what they liked to do at the weekend.

The ‘swinging sixties’ are remembered as the decade in which a generation turned on, tuned in and dropped out. However, the reality is that for most people living in Britain the sixties were not that ‘groovy’.

Debunking myths and sidestepping stereotypes through the testimonies and archives of people who were there, Cilla’s Unswung Sixties will show a very different but equally colourful decade, as experienced by ordinary men, women and families in the UK.

Ken Dodd had big chart hits in the 60s, just like The Beatles and our Cilla.

When it comes to music, Cilla was at the heart of the scene in the sixties. However, she reveals that just as The Beatles were about to hit the big time, music aficionados were predicting the death of rock and pop. The record buying public were going mad for Acker Bilk and Englebert Humperdinck and despite the fact that 1965 was a great year for The Rolling Stones, more people bought Ken Dodds’ ‘Tears’!

The wide belief is that the sixties were all about ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, but this was far from true – teenagers were a pretty conservative bunch, marriage had never been more popular, living in sin was still a taboo and when the pill first came out it was only available if you were married.

Cilla’s Unswung Sixties is set to be a trip down memory lane and for those who weren’t lucky enough to be there, it will be a real eye-opener to what the legendary decade was really like.

The Beatles at ATV Elstree Studios in the sixties.

ITV is also taking a trip down memory lane too – this time reviving 1980s, London Weekend Television produced, dreams-come-true and reunion show Surprise! Surprise! for a one-off special fronted by This Morning host Holly Willoughby.

Speaking to Chris Tarrant today on BBC Radio 2 Cilla said of the news Surprise! Surprise! was to return, “Listen I think if anybody she [Holly] would have been top of my list to present the show.”

But went on to warn Holly of just how much effort the series took to make, “You know Surprise! Surprise! the show was big all over Europe. It was great, but it was very hard work.

“Holly if you’re listening it’s hard work, cos you had no autocue, can’t have the autocue cos people can read exactly what the surprise is coming next. So you had to learn everything… all the dates and all the names. The names were the difficult part.”

Surprise Surprise was a ratings hit for LWT/ITV.

The original run of Surprise! Surprise! ran on ITV from 1984 until 1997 before being axed by the network due to ‘declining ratings’. The programme proved to be a stable regular ratings winner on Sunday evenings, but when it was switched to Friday nights its glory slipped away.

It plodded on as an annual special until 2001, usually airing at Easter or Christmas. An anniversary special was recorded but remains unaired after Black and ITV ‘fell out’ in 2003. Co-hosts on Surprise! Surprise! included Christopher Biggins, Gordon Burns and Bob Carolgees. Cilla quit ITV in 2003 when she left her other long-running series love-match game show Blind Date after nearly 20 years. She has previously returned to host special programmes on Sky One and Living TV in recent times as well as guest-star as herself in sitcom Benidorm.

Cilla’s Unswung Sixties starts on Monday 19th March at 9.00pm on Yesterday.

Cilla Black, back in the sixties.
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