TV review: The One and Only Cilla Black, ITV

 

Now here's an occasion absolutely worth buying a new hat for: an hour-long celebration of the First Lady of Light Entertainment, Cilla Black, and her 50 years on British television.

Her name was up in lights at the back of the stage, her adoring public hung on every word and her showbiz pals were out in force to shower her with praise. But Cilla's not one to let all that go to her head. "National Treasure? I should be buried," she scoffed in The One and Only. Should Cilla drift off into luvvie reminiscence, host Paul O'Grady was there to bring her back down to Earth – specifically that corner known in Liverpool as "Scottie Road".

Someone at ITV had the clever notion to superimpose modern-day Cilla on to archive footage of her olden-days haunts, so she could personally guide us around. There was the flat above the barber shop where she was raised; the Iron Door, where she first sang on stage; and, of course, the Cavern, where Cilla knocked about with the Beatles in the early 1960s.In a black-and-white clip we saw her perform the final notes of the Lennon and McCartney-penned "It's for You".

Dressed in a mini-dress, she descends a staircase to join Paul and John sitting at its foot. What was it that John Lennon whispered in her ear, all those years ago? "He said, 'I can see next week's laundry'." Charming.

Though her younger fans might not know it, Cilla was the UK's biggest-selling female artist of the 1960s, and the show included tributes from singers Katie Melua and Alison Moyet. Both of their underwhelming performances cleverly emphasised last night's main point: no one does it quite like Cilla. When Cilla herself finally took to the stage, it wasn't to perform "Alfie" or "Anyone Who Had a Heart", but the lesser-known but touching "Liverpool Lullaby". I think you get it now, don't you? Our Cilla might sup champagne with the likes of Dale Winton, but she'll never forget where she comes from.

It was the return of the beloved Blind Date, however, that really plucked at my personal heart strings. Cilla's familiar catchphrases came rushing back, along with the realisation that it will never be a Saturday night in 1993 again. That's as it should be. Holly Willoughby is now presenting a reboot of Surprise Surprise, but thankfully ITV has yet to profane the sacred memory of Cilla's fluorescent power suits with an updated version of Blind Date.

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