David Liddiment talks about ‘Stars in Their Eyes’

Stars in Their Eyes, am I right, it was Granada’s first big entertainment hit for a while at that time?


But it wasn’t a home-grown show.

No, it was a Dutch show, it was a Dutch format – in fact it was Steve Leahy who, you know, was a genius in spotting these formats from overseas that had the potential to be hits elsewhere – he was ahead of his time. I mean, he spotted the potential of You Bet! and had an option on the rights for the show, it was a German show, and it’s still on in Germany, and Mike Scott wouldn’t let him buy it because he thought it was gambling on television. Of course, London Weekend bought it and it became a big Saturday night hit for a good number of years. He spotted Stars in Their Eyes, which was a pretty low-rent Dutch show, but he spotted the potential of it – Action Time – and he got the rights. He spotted You’ve Been Framed before the Americans did, the Japanese material was on the market… now, the… Stars in Their Eyes he brought to Granada, it was the new indie quota, Granada couldn’t make all its own shows any more, so we had to set up an infrastructure to commission indies, and Steve brought in Stars in Their Eyes, and we commissioned a pilot from him, which Nigel Hall worked on, and Steve produced, and Chris Tarrant hosted, and Shirley Bassey won, funnily enough. And then Steve was making… Action Time were making all our game shows, they were making Busman’s Holiday, Runway, Connections, they were doing four shows, and I said to Steve, “I can’t commission another Action Time show, I’ve got to do something in-house, so we either bring Busman’s Holiday – which was an original Granada idea which he created when he was at Granada – in, or we take over Stars in Their Eyes …… What do you want to do?” And he picked Busman’s Holiday. And in hindsight, that was a mistake, because Busman’s Holiday had another three or four years, and Stars in Their Eyes went on to become a big, 12-year Saturday night hit.

So Steve retained Stars in Their Eyes?

No – Steve brought us Stars in Their Eyes and made the pilot…

From the Dutch show?

Yes. When we wanted to go to series on it, I said to him, “Steve, you already make…” we’d given him Busman’s Holiday, it used to be a Granada in-house, we gave it to Steve, Action Time, to make, he created it, we gave him Connections, which he created, we gave him Runway, which he created, all of which became Action Time productions. I said, “I can’t give you another show, Steve. You’re making all of that stuff for us, so either we’ll take Busman’s Holiday back and we’ll retain it as an in-house show, or we’ll keep Stars in Their Eyes as an in-house show, and you can keep Busman’s Holiday – what do you want to do?”

You were very generous to Steve at the time, it strikes me. I wasn’t sure I was aware of that.

No, I wasn’t generous to him. One, he invented all those shows, two, Granada was required by law to commission from the independent sector to a minimum quota – so we had to find good people, preferably good people in the north, Steve set up in the north, he was based around the corner, he invented these shows, he knew them and could produce them better than anybody else – it made sense to put those out [rather] than to put other bits of the Granada output out. And it was pure happenstance that this pivotal moment arrived where we had the prospect of getting Stars in Their Eyes away on the network, he was making all of this output for us, and I asked him to choose.

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