Almanack: Snub for Jacks

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The Independent Online
PLANS are afoot to return Superstars to our television screens. But the BBC, for whom the show attracted splendid audiences in the early 1980s, are being spoilsports.

TWI (part of Mark McCormack's sprawling sporting empire) put the programme together for the BBC in the past. 'We would love to bring it back,' says Stuart Mison, a major cheese at the company, 'but neither ITV nor BBC will look at it as a programme concept. We've got Olympic standard, international team athletes who have told us they are prepared to take part. We have a venue.' They have a team of experts standing by to advise - one of whom is Brian Hooper, the pole vaulter and last European Superstar, crowned in 1984.

Everyone remembers Superstars with affection: who can forget Brian Jacks in mid-squat-thrust, or the majesty of Daley Thompson 'dipping' on the parallel bars? Surely the BBC would be on to a winner if it resurrected the concept? Even BBC spokespersons cluck fondly when the topic is raised. But the official response remains stony and Birtian: it is not the kind of show the modern BBC wants.

Perhaps the greatest superstar of them all, Brian Jacks, is now running a martial arts centre and birthday party business (Karate-chop-o-grams?) in Orpington, Kent. He reports a great upsurge of public enthusiasm for the show as the tenth anniversary of its demise approaches. 'I get so many phone calls,' he reports. 'Superstars was a genuine programme where sportsmen competed with each other on genuine terms.' Brian was British Superstar three times, ran up an identical hat-trick in the European competition, and was crowned World Superstar. He is dismissive of Gladiators: 'I'd love to get five or six old Superstars and compete against them. They wouldn't stand an earthly.'

(Photograph omitted)